Israel, US shared data on suspected nuclear site -report

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WASHINGTON, Sep 21 (Reuters) Before it decided to strike Syria, Israel shared intelligence with President George W Bush this summer indicating that its neighbor was getting help from North Korea on a nuclear facility, The Washington Post reported today.

The White House was deeply troubled by Israel's assertion that North Korea was assisting Syria's nuclear ambition, but opted against an immediate response because of concern over negotiations on Pyongyang's nuclear program, the Post reported, citing US government sources.

Ultimately, however, the United States is believed to have given Israel some corroboration of the original intelligence before the air raid on September 6, the Post said, citing the sources.

The Post quoted its sources as saying that Israel hit the Syrian facility in the dead of night to minimize possible casualties.

The US sources would discuss the Israeli intelligence, which included satellite imagery, only on condition of anonymity, and many details about the North Korean-Syrian connection remain unknown, the Post reported.

Bush yesterday refused to answer repeated questions about reports that Israel conducted air strikes in Syria.

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

Israel has also refused to talk about the reported raid.

Syrian officials have said that their air defenses forced Israeli jets to flee, dropping bombs harmlessly in the desert and has said it could retaliate for the September 6 violation of its territory.

Damascus has denied reports it may have received North Korean nuclear aid. North Korea has also denied any such cooperation.

REUTERS JK RAI1052

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