WASHINGTON – US intelligence officials are set to tell American lawmakers that Israel's Air Force destroyed a nuclear reactor built with North Korean aid in northeast Syria in September 2007, according to various reports.
The White House declined to confirm details of the briefings, but spokeswoman Dana Perino and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said separately that information on the issue could "soon" be made public.
Asked when the public would be told about what US intelligence believes about the collaboration between Syria and North Korea, Gates told a Pentagon news conference: "Soon." He refused to elaborate.
"I think Secretary Gates said it well. 'Soon' is a good, short answer," Perino told reporters amid a flurry of news reports that North Korea had aided Syria in a covert drive to obtain nuclear capability.
"I'm not going to be able to say much on it today. And I'm not confirming anything at this briefing in regards to the substance," Perino.
'Result of Solid Intelligence'
The United States has concluded that the assistance offered to Damascus by North Korea came both before and after a Syrian nuclear reactor being built in secret with Pyongyang's help was destroyed, said a US official who requested anonymity.
"If it had been completed, the reactor would have been capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, but it was destroyed before it could do so," the official said. "That's the result of solid intelligence."
The official did not specify who had destroyed the facility, but Israel carried out an airstrike inside Syrian territory in September in a move widely reported to have targeted a nuclear site.
"The reactor was put out of commission before it was loaded with nuclear fuel, before it became operational," the official said.
"It was not designed to produce electricity," the official emphasized.