by Staff Writers
Jerusalem (AFP) Dec 24, 2010
Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in an air raid just weeks before it went online in 2007, said a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks and published on Friday in an Israeli daily.
"On September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed the nuclear reactor built by Syria secretly, apparently with North Korea's help," then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice wrote in the cable published in Yediot Aharonot newspaper.
"Our intelligence experts are convinced that the attack targeted by the Israelis is in fact an atomic reactor of the same type built by North Korea in Yongbyon," she wrote in the message dated April 2008.
"We have good reason to believe that the reactor was not built for peaceful purposes," she said, adding the attack came only weeks before the reactor was to become operational.
Rice also noted the secrecy surrounding the construction of the nuclear facility, with the Syrian authorities refusing to invite the International Atomic Energy Agency or any media to inspect the site.
Syria has always denied that the structure targeted by Israeli warplanes was a nuclear reactor, although it has admitted it was a "military site under construction."
Israel has for its part never denied that its air force attacked a target in Syria, without ever officially claiming responsibility for the action.
Former US president George W. Bush recounted in his memoirs that he resisted Israeli pressure to bomb the site.
In 2008, current US President Barack Obama said when he was a Democratic hopeful for the White House that Israel was right to bomb the suspected nuclear facility in Syria.
earlier related report
Federal judge Andreas Mueller in a report to Swiss authorities called for Friedrich Tinner and his sons Marco and Urs to be charged with violating a law on war materiel.
"I do not agree" with the judge's allegations, attorney Peter Volkart told AFP. He declined to comment further but confirmed in a statement the judge's accusations against the Tinners.
According to the judge, the three men, arrested in October 2004 in Germany and extradited to Switzerland in 2005, were implicated in the development of a nuclear weapons programme in Libya working with a secret Pakistani network.
They are suspected of helping Tripoli to develop centrifuges to enrich uranium from 2001 to 2003 and collaborating with the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.
According to Le Temps newspaper Friday, judge Mueller believes he has "established" the fact that the Tinners were turned by the CIA and began working for the US spy agency starting in June 2003.
But he added that Swiss authorities refused to give him the necessary authority to investigate that, according to the paper.
The judge's report was handed in to the prosecutor general on Thursday, who is studying it and will decide whether or not to bring charges, a spokeswoman told AFP in an email.
When the three engineers were arrested in 2004 they allegedly possessed detailed plans for making nuclear weapons, but Swiss authorities later ordered the documents destroyed.
Media reports in 2008 said it was widely believed the Swiss acted to stop plans for nuclear bombs falling into the hands of hostile states, and The New York Times said Bern was under CIA pressure not to expose ties between the agency and the family.
The Times said the CIA recruited Urs Tinner in 2000, who in turn convinced his father and brother to join the espionnage activities to halt Libya, and also Iran, from gaining nuclear capability.
The paper quoted US and European officials as saying the Tinners played an active role in secret US operations to funnel sabotaged nuclear equipment into rogue state hands.
The CIA had declined to comment to the Times on the Tinner case but a spokesman called the disruption of Khan's Pakistani network "a genuine intelligence success".
Friedrich Tinner was released from custody in 2006 and his two sons were freed on bail by last year, allegedly after US pressure.
Libya agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons plans in 2003 under pressure from the West.
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