LONDON (AFP) — Elite Israeli forces seized North Korean nuclear material during a raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israeli warplanes bombed it September 6, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The Sunday Times quoted well-placed sources as saying the commandos seized the material from a compound near Dayr az-Zwar in northern Syria and that tests of it in Israel showed it was of North Korean origin.
Israel had been surveying the site for months, according to Washington and Israeli sources quoted by the newspaper which gave no date for the commando raid or details about the material seized.
An unidentified senior American source quoted by The Sunday Times added that the US government sought proof of nuclear-related activities before allowing the air strike by F-151 warplanes to go ahead.
The raid by the elite Sayeret Matkal was personally directed by Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister who once commanded the unit, the newspaper said.
It said he had been preoccupied with the site since assuming his post on June 18.
The White House insisted Friday that it was "clear-eyed" about North Korea as it stonewalled questions about an Israeli strike allegedly sparked by nuclear cooperation between Pyongyang and Syria.
If true, transfers of atomic technology from the Stalinist state would cast a dark cloud over US policy towards North Korea, which US President George W. Bush, weighed down by the unpopular war in Iraq, has hailed as a success story.
North Korea has angrily denied sharing atomic know-how with Damascus, and some news reports have suggested that Israel's target was actually tied to missile exports from the cash-strapped regime to Syria.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino flatly refused to confirm or deny media reports that Israel struck a nuclear site but sharply rejected suggestions that the incident showed Washington had been naive about Pyongyang's intentions.
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