21 October 2007

Syria, nuclear facilities, coverups, North Korea, US

Report: Israeli mole provided photos of Syrian nuclear facility
By Haaretz Service and Reuters

Israel had obtained detailed pictures of a Syrian complex from an apparent mole, which supported an Israeli belief the facility was nuclear and led to an air strike on it last month, ABC News reported on Friday.

Media reports have speculated that the IAF targeted a North Korean nuclear facility in its air strike on Syria last month. Neither Israel nor Syria has confirmed these speculations.

ABC, citing a senior U.S. official, said the person had provided several pictures of the complex from the ground, and Israel showed the images to the CIA. The U.S. spy agency helped pinpoint "drop points" to assist in potential targeting, ABC said.

Israel urged the United States to destroy the complex, but Washington hesitated because no fissionable material was found that would prove the site was nuclear, ABC said.

The network quoted the official as saying the facility was of North Korean design and that Syria must have had "human" help from North Korea.

The White House and the CIA declined to comment on the report, in keeping with a strict U.S. refusal to discuss the issue.

The complex struck by Israel was in a remote area about 100 miles (160 km) from the Iraqi border and along the Euphrates River, ABC said.

It said the official described the pictures as showing a large cylindrical structure, still under construction, with thick reinforced walls. There was also a secondary structure and a pump station with trucks around it.

"It was unmistakable what it was going to be. No doubt in my mind," ABC quoted the official as saying.

The U.S. had begun to consider ways to destroy the complex, such as a special forces raid using helicopters, ABC said. But it said the White House sent word the U.S. would not carry out a raid and urged Israel not to do it either.

Report: Syria dismantling facility targeted by IAF
Syria has begun dismantling the ruins of a site that was bombed by the Israel Air Force on September 6, the Washington Post reported Friday.

According to the report, which quotes senior U.S. officials, this could be an attempt by Syria to avoid an international inspection of the bombed facility.

The Washington Post quoted top U.S. officials as saying that photos taken from the air reveal that that the site had the characteristics of a small but significant nuclear reactor, similar to those found in North Korea.

The dismantling of the facility, a process which appears to be underway, could make it difficult for inspectors to determine the exact nature of the facility, and what Syria's intentions for it had been, the paper reported.

Syria, which possesses a small nuclear reactor for research purposes, has denied allegations that it aims to expand it nuclear program. However, U.S. officials with knowledge of the Israeli strike described the target as a nuclear facility, built with North Korean assistance.

Last week Syria presented to reporters and film crews a facility they claimed was the targeted site, but in fact was a different site, the report continued, in efforts to substantiate its claim that the IAF had struck an empty structure.

While most American officials believe that Syria does in fact have nuclear aspirations, they are divided over the degree of the threat posed by these aspirations. Arms specialists have said with near certainty that Syria would have taken several years to complete the nuclear reactor, and a much longer time to produce significant amounts of plutonium for possible use in a nuclear weapon.

The paper quoted weapons experts as saying that Israel and the U.S. decided not to approach the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency with their concerns over Syria's plans because they feared that the agency's weak response would encourage the country to continue its nuclear work.

Meanwhile, diplomats reported Friday that United Nations experts have been provided with satellite imagery of the facility and are analyzing it for signs that it might have been a secret nuclear site.

One of the diplomats indicated that the photos came from U.S intelligence. Another said the images, which have been studied by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency since being received on Thursday, do not at first examination appear to substantiate reports that the target was a nuclear installation, but emphasized that the images were still being looked at.

Related articles:
  • Syria: Israel is spreading false reports in order to justify war
  • Report: Syria, North Korea hold high-level talks in Pyongyang
  • CNN: Israeli gov't 'very happy with success' of IAF strike on Syria
  • UN blames interpreter's error for report Syria has nuclear facility
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