Bush refuses to talk about Israeli strike on Syria

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WASHINGTON, Sep 20 (Reuters) US President George W Bush today refused to answer repeated questions about reports that Israel conducted air strikes in Syria earlier this month to target a possible nuclear facility.

US officials last week confirmed the strikes and said they were to target weapons Israel believed were headed for the militant group Hezbollah. But US newspapers reported intelligence had led some US officials to believe Syria was getting help from North Korea for a nuclear facility.

''I'm not going to comment on the matter,'' Bush said, brushing aside several questions during a White House news conference.

The Israeli government has also refused to comment on the report. Syrian officials have said that their air defences forced Israeli jets to flee, dropping bombs harmlessly in the desert.

Bush today did warn North Korea against allowing other countries to obtain any nuclear technology from its program, which Pyongyang has agreed to shutter.

''We expect them not to be proliferating,'' Bush said, but emphasised that he was not commenting on possible nuclear assistance being provided to Syria by North Korea.

Both Syria and North Korea have denied the reports of nuclear collaboration and Pyongyang said it stood by its pledge not to engage in nuclear proliferation.

REUTERS GT RK2240

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