Monday, March 31, 2008

Olmert finally admits: We bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor


An Israeli airstrike against Syria last September targeted a nuclear-related facility that was under construction with technical assistance from North Korea, according to Israel's prime minister.

Japanese government sources said over the weekend that the Israeli leader, Ehud Olmert, briefed Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda about the attack during summit talks in Tokyo on Feb. 27.

It is apparently the first time that the intended target had been disclosed to the head of a foreign government.

Previously, Jerusalem had only acknowledged it carried out the Sept. 6, 2007, attack, but stopped short of identifying the type of facility.

Tokyo has shown keen interest in the disclosure as it suggests Pyongyang was providing nuclear technology to Damascus in violation of an agreement made at six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue not to transfer nuclear materials, technology or know-how.

According to the sources, Olmert told Fukuda that the site was a nuclear-related facility that was under construction with know-how and assistance from North Korean technicians dispatched by Pyongyang.

Olmert also said Israel remains concerned about the issue of nuclear proliferation by North Korea and sought greater information sharing with Tokyo through expanded dialogue on the issue.
Japanese government officials expressed differing views on how to interpret Olmert's statement.
"While we cannot confirm the facts, the fact that such an assertion was made at an official occasion such as a summit meeting is significant, making it highly credible," said one high-ranking Foreign Ministry official.
Another Foreign Ministry official pointed out, however, that the Israeli leader "may have only presented facts that were favorable for the Israeli side."

Under a joint statement issued at six-party talks in September 2005, Pyongyang agreed to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs."
North Korea agreed to "provide a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programs" and reaffirmed its "commitment not to transfer nuclear materials, technology or know-how" to other countries, under a list of actions for implementation of the joint statement, agreed on during the talks in October.

Washington has since sought clarification from Pyongyang on suspected nuclear proliferation by North Korea to other countries such as Syria. Pyongyang has denied the allegations, leaving the talks stalled. (IHT/Asahi: March 31,2008)


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