N. Korea Linked to Syrian Nukes

White House unveils video and images that draw a connection.

ByABC News
April 24, 2008, 2:16 PM

April 24, 2008 — -- The White House for the first time today released highly sensitive evidence to prove that North Korea helped construct a secret nuclear facility in Syria.

"Until Sept. 6, 2007, the Syrian regime was building a covert nuclear reactor in its eastern desert capable of producing plutonium.," the White House said in a statement today. "We are convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria's covert nuclear activities. We have good reason to believe that reactor, which was damaged beyond repair on Sept. 6 of last year, was not intended for peaceful purposes."

Senior intelligence officials later briefed reporters on the matter and showed a video and images to illustrate not only the purported nuclear site during construction but also a top North Korean nuclear official onsite with his Syrian counterpart. The images reveal for the first time that spies had penetrated the facility.

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari, denied American accusations, saying, "We said it many times in the past, there was no Syrian, North Korean cooperation whatsoever in Syria, and we denied these rumors and this is what I can say for this regard."

Leading lawmakers from the House Intelligence Committee accused the Bush administration of leaving them out of the loop by refusing to provide adequate intelligence briefings on North Korean help in constructing a nuclear facility in Syria until today.

Both sides of the aisle warned the administration it would now face a steeper battle to gain congressional approval for any deal that may be reached to eliminate North Korea's nuclear program through the so-called six-party talks.

Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, and ranking member Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., are furious with the Bush administration for failing to brief Congress until eight months after Israeli jets bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear site Sept. 6, 2007.

"The challenge we're having particularly with [the] administration today is that there is a veil of secrecy that gets in the way of our committee feeling comfortable that we're getting the kind of information that we're supposed to have to carry out our oversight responsibilities," Reyes told reporters after leaving the intelligence briefing.