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A former U.S. Army mechanical engineer was arrested yesterday on charges that he spied for Israel over 20 years ago. Government officials in Israel said they were not familiar with the case.

Ben-Ami Kadish, 84, was to be charged with slipping classified documents about nuclear weapons, fighter jets and air defense missiles to an Israeli Consulate employee who also received information from convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, authorities said.

Kadish acknowledged his spying in FBI interviews, and said he acted out of a belief that he was helping Israel, court papers said. A U.S. citizen, Kadish was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Manhattan yesterday, where he was facing four counts of conspiracy, including allegations that he conspired to disclose U.S. national defense documents to Israel, and that he acted as an agent of the Israeli government.

According to the criminal complaint, the activities occurred from 1979 through 1985 while the Connecticut-born Kadish worked at the U.S. Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center in Dover, New Jersey.

Pensioner Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan, a former Mossad official who recruited Pollard to spy for Israel, said he was not aware of the Kadish case.

"I have no idea," he said. "This is the first time I've heard about it. I'll go listen to the news."

When asked whether he recognized Kadish's name, Eitan repeated, "I have no idea."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said: "We know nothing about it. We heard it from the media."

The Prime Minister's Bureau said Israel was not familiar with the details of the case, and was examining the issue. Israeli officials fear that the case might strain Israel-U.S. relations.

Kadish was accused of taking home classified documents several times and letting the Israeli government worker photograph them in Kadish's basement. The documents included information about nuclear weapons, a modified F-15 fighter jet, and the U.S. Patriot missile air defense system, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, the Israeli government worker often provided Kadish with lists of wanted classified national defense documents.

Prosecutors also allege Kadish conspired to hinder a communication with a law enforcement officer, and making a materially false statement to a law enforcement officer.

Those charges stem from a conversation in which Kadish was allegedly told by the Israeli contact to lie to U.S. law enforcement agents and tell them that he didn't remember many of the relevant details. A day later, Kadish lied to FBI agents about his communications with the Israeli worker, the complaint said.

According to U.S. law enforcement officials and various documents, Kadish got in touch with his Israeli contact after Israel agreed in 2004 to secretly acknowledge to American officials that Pollard was not an isolated case, thereby confirming longtime American suspicions that Pollard was not the only American spy working for Israel.

Kadish admitted spying for Israel between 1979 and 1985, and then asked his Israeli contact what to do.

The complaint said Kadish did not appear to receive any money in exchange for his suspected spying, just small gifts and restaurant meals.

The complaint noted that Pollard was charged in November 1985 with espionage-related offense after he provided classified information to the same Israeli worker, among other people.