Peres, Botha deny 1970s Israel-South Africa nuke pact

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Cape Town, May 25(ANI): Israel's President Shimon Peres and former South African Foreign and Defence Minister P. W. 'Pik' Botha have both dismissed and rejected reports of the two countries inking a nuclear weapons pact in March 1975.

According to The Guardian and the South African Press Association (SAPA), Peres said Israel has never negotiated the exchange of nuclear weapons with South Africa.

His office said "Tere exists no basis in reality" for claims based on declassified secret South African documents that he offered nuclear warheads for sale with ballistic missiles to the apartheid regime in 1975. Israel has never negotiated the exchange of nuclear weapons with South Africa. There exists no Israeli document or Israeli signature on a document that such negotiations took place," it said.

SAPA quoted Botha as saying that at the time he was ambassador to the US and the UN, so he could not have been involved in such meetings.

'I would have known', he said.

But he said that as minister of foreign affairs from April 1977, and, towards the end of his term, as negotiator with the US on the signing of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, he had known "what was going on".

"I was very closely connected with our Atomic Energy Board and later Corporation. I would have known about it," he said.

He had also known Peres and other senior Israeli leaders.

It was of course possible that an offer was made at a low level, between officials. But for it to have any significance, it should have been brought to the attention of the South African ministers connected with the country's own weapon production.

"As a serious offer of one government to another, my answer is no. Definitely not," Botha said.

The South African documents, which are dated March 31 1975 and marked "top secret," show Peres' offer was made in response to Botha's request for Israel to supply them with warheads.

But they make no mention of any "exchange" between the parties. At the time, South Africa had not yet acquired nuclear capabilities and would not do so for several years.

At the talks, Israeli officials "formally offered to sell South Africa some of the nuclear-capable Jericho missiles in its arsenal", the memo said.

It also said Peres and Botha signed an agreement about military ties between the two countries, including a clause that said "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret.

The material was discovered by US academic Sasha Polakow-Suransky while researching a book on the close relationship between the two allies. (ANI)

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