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CIA Presents New Evidence of Syria-N. Korea Nuclear Link

CIA officials briefed House and Senate members Thursday on classified evidence, including a video, linking North Korea to a Syrian nuclear facility that Israel bombed in September 2007. A reporter discusses the details of the emerging story.

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  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Now the tangled story of Syria, North Korea, and Israel.

    Today, U.S. intelligence officials released a video to congressional committees. It purported to show Syria was building — with North Korean help — a reactor that could possibly produce bomb-grade plutonium.

    Israel bombed and destroyed the site in September 2007.

    Robin Wright has been covering the story for the Washington Post, and she joins us from the Post's newsroom. She's covered the Middle East for decades and is author of the new book, "Dreams and Shadows."

    And, Robin, you've just coming from a briefing with a senior administration intelligence official about the site, about the Syria-North Korea link, and about its bombing. Tell us what you learned this afternoon.

  • ROBIN WRIGHT, Washington Post:

    Well, the administration and intelligence officials told us that this is a project that dates back to 1997, when they got the first indication that North Korea and Syria were working on a project together.

    That the construction of the facility began in 2001, but the United States was not fully convinced that this particular site was that nuclear facility until some time after 2005.

    And that it confirmed earlier in 2007 that the site that they've now identified as Al Kibar, out in the remote desert on the Euphrates River, was, indeed, a site that was capable of producing plutonium, was not being used for electricity, and was ill-suited for research.

    And that led them to conclude that this was part of a weapons program.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Was this the same kind of reactor, according to the administration, that the North Koreans had been working on themselves at home?

  • ROBIN WRIGHT:

    Yes. They believe that — they claim that North Korea had basically copied its own nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and rebuilt it in this remote Syrian desert site, that it's almost an exact replica.

    And they produced photos to show the similarity, particularly in the fuel rods and the cooling rods, to show the same kind of configuration physically.

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