JERUSALEM, Oct 28 (Reuters) In his first public comment on Israel's mysterious bombing run in Syria last month, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said today that the air force may have overflown neighbouring Turkey during the sortie.
Israel has given no details on the target of the September 6 air strike, which analysts speculated may have been a nascent Syria nuclear reactor. Syria denied having such a facility.
Muslim but secular Turkey, the Jewish state's most important regional ally, lodged a protest with the Olmert government after discovering fuel tanks rpt tanks in its territory that had apparently been dumped by Israeli F-15 long-range bombers returning from Syria.
Olmert told his cabinet that he apologised to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting in London last week.
Israel's Channel 10 television said Erdogan pressed Olmert for a public accounting on the raid, which sent shockwaves through a Middle East bracing for possible Israeli or US air strikes on Iran's nuclear sites, and any reprisals by Tehran.
''In my meeting with the Turkish prime minister I said that if indeed Israeli planes strayed into Turkish air space, then this was not done deliberately and there was no intention -- planned or otherwise -- to harm or to undermine in any way Turkey's sovereignty, which we respect,'' Olmert's office quoted him as telling fellow ministers.
The statement added that Olmert ''apologised to the Turkish government and the Turkish people for any affront caused''. The Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv had no immediate comment.
Israel and Turkey regularly hold joint military exercises. But Ankara is also careful to maintain good ties with Syria and other Arab countries, which often regard Israel -- assumed to have the region's only nuclear arsenal -- with hostility.
Citing satellite images, a Washington-based atomic research institute said Israel appeared to have bombed a facility in northern Syria resembling a North Korean gas graphite nuclear reactor. The Syrians razed the site after the raid, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said.
The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been seeking explanations from Damascus about the site, had no immediate comment on the ISIS findings.
Since 2003, the IAEA has been investigating Western suspicions of secret attempts by Iran, an ally of Syria's, to build atom bombs.
Iran says its nuclear energy programme is intended solely to provide an alternative source of electricity.
Reuters GT DB2239