U.S., Israel concerned N. Korean nuclear know-how reached Iran
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update - 18:20 07/04/2008

The United States and Israel seek to pressure North Korea to cease its nuclear cooperation with Iran, which is one of the motives behind their agreement to disclose details on the air-force strike in Syria last September. According to foreign press reports, the strike targeted a nuclear installation built with North Korean assistance.

According to information obtained by Washington and Jerusalem, North Korea transferred technology and nuclear materials to Iran to aid Tehran's secret nuclear arms program.

U.S. and Israeli officials agreed last week that the talks between the U.S. and North Korea, scheduled to take place in Singapore tomorrow, should be used to pressure Pyongyang to disclose its nuclear cooperation with countries in the Middle East. As a pressure tactic, U.S. officials could reveal details of North Korea's cooperation with Syria to Congress.

Foreign news sources reported that in addition to helping Syria build the nuclear facility that Israel attacked, North Korea sent engineers and various materials to the site. Israel and the U.S. fear that Pyongyang could be doing even more to boost Iran's nuclear program.

During their talks in Washington last week with high-ranking officials, Yoram Turbowicz and Shalom Turjeman, advisers to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, agreed that the details of the air strike would be released by the Americans. Israel would continue to decline commenting on the matter, as it has done since September, and would not alter its censorship policy.

Syria claimed that the facility hit was an unused military installation and denied having a nuclear development program. North Korea also denies exporting its nuclear expertise. Iran claims that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only.

In the past few months Olmert has met with key world leaders to discuss Syria.

The most important meeting in Olmert's "campaign" to defend the Israeli air strike and create a united international front against Syria was with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On October 10, about a month after the attack, the two leaders spoke on the phone about Syria and other issues. They agreed that due to the sensitivity of the matter, talks should be continued face to face.

On October 18, Olmert flew to Moscow for a five-hour visit. It had been announced, to much surprise, the day before. Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said at the time that the Iranian issue was the focus of the talks, and that Olmert planned to present Putin with intelligence on a number of strategic issues.

Haaretz learned that Olmert presented Putin with the problems relevant to Syria.

One week later, Olmert flew to Paris and London, where he met with President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, respectively, and filled them in on the operation. While in London, Olmert also met with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was also visiting the British capital.

After the air strike in Syria, two detachable fuel tanks from Israeli fighter planes were found in Turkish territory, near the Syrian border. Turkish news reports said this proved that Israeli aircraft had flown over Turkish airspace on their way to their target. Turkey made a formal complaint to Israel and asked for clarifications from Jerusalem.

In his hour-long meeting with Erdogan, Olmert briefed the Turkish prime minister on the situation. A few days later Olmert informed the cabinet that he had apologized to Erdogan for the fuel-tank incident.

"If Israeli planes indeed penetrated Turkish airspace, then it was without prior intent or any intent to infringe upon or undermine Turkish sovereignty, which we respect," Olmert told the cabinet.

Related articles:

  • Report: Syria, North Korea hold high-level talks in Pyongyang
  • Report: U.S. evidence shows N. Korea gave Syria nuclear aid
  • Report: Iranian Foreign Ministry delegation visits North Korea

  • Original article: Ha'aretz
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