Syria accuses U.S. of aiding Israel in raid
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria accused the United States on Friday of involvement in last year's Israeli attack on Syria that Washington said struck a suspected nuclear reactor built with North Korea's help.
A Syrian statement said: "The U.S. administration was apparently party to the execution" of the September raid by Israeli warplanes on eastern Syria. The statement did not give details. A U.S. official said on Thursday that Washington did not give Israel any "green light" to strike the area.
The United States presented on Thursday what it described as intelligence showing that North Korea had helped Syria build a suspected nuclear reactor that was targeted by the Israeli warplanes in September.
The White House said the United States was convinced that North Korea had helped Syria to build a secret nuclear reactor. The comment came after intelligence officials briefed U.S. lawmakers about the raid.
The Syrian statement repeated Damascus's denial of involvement in nuclear activity and dismissed Washington's accusations as part of a campaign to discredit the Damascus government.
"The Syrian government regrets the campaign of lies and falsification by the U.S. administration against Syria, including allegations of nuclear activity," said the statement, which was issued on the state news agency.
"Syria asks the United States to act responsibly and stop creating more crises in the Middle East," the statement added.
Syria, a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, said at the time of the strike that the target was a conventional military facility. It said the international community should hold Israel accountable for a massive nuclear program developed over decades with Western help.
The White House statement said Syria did not inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the construction of the reactor and covered up its existence after it was hit.
"This cover-up only served to reinforce our confidence that this reactor was not intended for peaceful activities," the statement said.
Diplomats with contacts in the IAEA have said Syria has not granted IAEA requests to send inspectors to the site, although it has no obligation to do so without hard evidence of nuclear activity there.
The new U.S. allegations will raise pressure on the IAEA to send inspectors and for Syria to accept them, diplomats in the Syrian capital added.
"The Syrian government could be looking at a major embarrassment," one of the diplomats said.
Imad Moustapha, Syria's ambassador to the United States, said on Thursday U.S. accusations were "a fantasy" that would develop into an embarrassment for Washington, similar to allegations about illegal weapons in Iraq that were never found.
The Israeli attack did not prompt retaliation from Damascus, which wants Washington to oversee possible peace negotiations with Israel. Israel remained largely quiet on the target.
Syria said this week that Israel had told a Turkish mediator the Jewish state was ready to meet a main Syrian demand of returning all of the occupied Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace.