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Israel strike on Syria may have been nuclear- -

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TONY JONES: After nearly two weeks of silence over Israel's incursion into Syrian air space earlier
this month, reports are now starting to emerge which may explain what went on. Over the weekend the
Washington Post reported that the Israeli strike was aimed at a shipment of arms from North Korea,
and the cargo may have included equipment and materials related to nuclear technology. Middle East
correspondent Matt Brown filed this report.

MATT BROWN: Relations between Israel and Syria have never been good. But for the past few months
they've been particularly odd. The two countries have variously been reported as being about to
commence peace talks, or on the brink of war.

When Syria accused Israeli jets of violating its air space earlier this month, there was a genuine
fear that war was a real prospect. Witnesses say the Syrian military fired on the Israeli jets in
the north of the country near the Turkish border. Syria's long standing allies, Russia, China and
North Korea, all denounced the alleged Israeli incursion.

ALEXANDER SOLTANOV, RUSSIAN SPOKESMAN ON MIDDLE EASTERN AFFAIRS (translation): Despite all the
statements, we are against the violation of the air space over Syria and countries other than
Syria. All countries should adhere to international law.

MATT BROWN: Officially there's been no response from Israel, but others are now attempting to
connect the dots. A former US ambassador to the United Nations says Syria's burgeoning relationship
with North Korea may hold the key.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: Both North Korea and Iran today have very strong
incentives to hide their nuclear activity from the international community. So putting it in Syria
or some other country is obviously a very good way to do that. I think it would be unusual for
Israel to conduct a military operation inside Syria other than for a very high value target.

MATT BROWN: Both Syria and North Korea have dismissed the allegations as groundless, but the US
Defence Secretary isn't ruling out a link.

ROBERT GATES, US SECRETARY OF DEFENCE: Well, I'm not going to get into things that may involve
intelligence matters, but all I will say is we are watching the North Koreans very carefully. We
watch the Syrians very carefully.

REPORTER, FOX NEWS: How would we regard that kind of effort both in terms of the Syrians and the
North Koreans?

ROBERT GATES: I think it would be a real problem.

REPORTER: Because?

ROBERT GATES: If such an activity were taking place, it would be a matter of great concern because
the President has put down very strong marker with the North Koreans about further proliferation
efforts and obviously any effort by the Syrians to pursue weapons of mass destruction would be a
concern.

MATT BROWN: Israeli officials say they've now regained the deterrent capability they felt they lost
during last year's war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Matt Brown, Lateline.