The White House said Thursday that North Korea's secret work on a nuclear reactor with Syria was ''a dangerous and potentially destabilizing development for the world,'' raising doubts about Pyongyang's intention to carry through with a promised disclosure of its nuclear activities.
Seven months after Israel bombed the reactor, the White House broke its silence and said North Korea assisted Syria's secret nuclear program and that the destroyed facility was not intended for ''peaceful purposes.''
''The Syrian regime must come clean before the world regarding its illicit nuclear activities.'' White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
According to a US official the reactor was mere weeks away from becoming functional.
"The facility was mostly completed but still needed significant testing before it could be declared operational," the official said.
The disclosure threatened to undermine six-party negotiations to try to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea, but though it called North Korea's nuclear assistance to Syria a ''dangerous manifestation'' of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program and its proliferation activities, the US said it remained committed to the talks.
New footage of Syrian reactor released Thursday night (Photo: CNN)
The administration said that after the reactor was damaged beyond repair, Syria tried to bury evidence of its existence. However no uranium - needed to fuel a reactor - was evident at the site, a remote area of eastern Syria along the Euphrates River.
Top members of the House intelligence committee said Thursday after being briefed on the facility by intelligence and administration officials that the reactor posed a serious threat of spreading dangerous nuclear materials.
Intelligence officials who have seen the evidence consider it ''extremely compelling,'' a US official said, adding that it was gleaned from a variety of sources, not just Israeli intelligence.
CIA Director Michael Hayden, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley briefed lawmakers, who were shown a video presentation of intelligence information that the administration contends establishes a strong link between North Korea's nuclear program and the bombed Syrian site.
The Syrian reactor was similar in design to a North Korean reactor at Yongbyon that has in the past produced small amounts of plutonium, US Officials said.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Bush stood by the statement he made in October 2006 when he described North Korea as one of the world's leading proliferators of missile technology, including transfers to Iran and Syria.
Syria: US creating atmosphere of war
Syria has not declared the alleged reactor to the International Atomic Energy Agency nor was it under international safeguards, possibly putting Syria in breach of an international nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
In the Syrian capital of Damascus, legislator Suleiman Haddad, who heads the parliament's foreign relations committee, told The Associated Press that the videotape does not deserve a response.
"America is looking for any problem in order to accuse Syria," Haddad said by telephone. "Do we need Korean workers to work in Syria?"
"It is regretful to say that America is putting us among its enemies and therefore this talk (at Congress) does not deserve a response. America is trying to create an atmosphere of war in the region," Haddad said. He did not elaborate.
US Officials were also briefing members of the UN Nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, at its Vienna headquarters.