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Sunday London Times, Aug 27 '98, LONDON - AN appeal by MordechaiVanunu, the Israeli anti-nuclear activist, to be released fromprison was rejected last week by judges at a district court inthe town of Beersheba, in Israel's Negev desert, writes Dina Shilohin Beersheba.
The former technician was jailed in 1986 for revealing detailsof Israel's secret nuclear weapons programme to The Sunday Timesand was held in solitary confinement until March. Vanunu was sentencedto 18 years in prison, but asked for parole. It is customary inIsrael to release prisoners for good behaviour after they haveserved two-thirds of their term.
Vanunu's initial request for early release was turned downthree months ago. "I think they are determined to make anexample of him," said Avigdor Feldman, Vanunu's lawyer, afterFriday's four-hour hearing.
Vanunu, 43, was brought to the court from Ashkelon prison ina convoy of eight heavily guarded police vans. Soldiers with machinegunspatrolled the roof of the courthouse and police and secret servicemen barred onlookers from the area.
Despite the latest setback, Vanunu's lawyers said he was ingood spirits. He is also planning another court case. Last weekhe announced plans to sue the Israeli government in a Britishcourt for using a Mossad agent, operating illegally in Britain,to lure him from London. Vanunu was led by a female Israeli agentto Rome, where he was drugged and taken back to Israel.
Free Mordechai Vanunu
If you believe Mordechai Vanunu should be released, pleasesend the below information to: MV, ForeignDesk, The Sunday Times, 1 Pennington Street, London E1 9XW.We will pass on your coupon, and any letter you may wish to attach,to Vanunu in prison. Copies of your request will be sent to BenjaminNetanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and to Tony Blair.
FREE MORDECHAI VANUNU
I appeal to the Israeli authorities to exercise mercy, commuteMordechai Vanunu's sentence and release him from custody.
WASHINGTON (AP) - On the eve of the 1967 Six-Day Arab-IsraeliWar, Israel hurriedly turned its limited nuclear capability intotwo crude but deliverable nuclear weapons, according to a newbook tracing Israel's early nuclear path.
Shimon Peres, who eventually would become prime minister,was among those suggesting that Israel conduct a nuclear testas a deterrent, to demonstrate to its adversaries its nuclearcapability, according to author Avner Cohen.
The suggestion was never taken seriously. Rather, Cohen said,the Israeli government policy was set that nuclear weapons shouldbe used only as a last resort, when all other options failed.Israel never has used the weapon.
``Israel and the Bomb,'' a historic look at Israel's nuclearcapabilities, also points to a U.S. intelligence lapse in thelate 1950s. Cohen said the United States failed for three yearsto recognize that a complex being built in the southern NegevDesert town of Dimona actually was a major nuclear facility.
In 1963, President Kennedy confronted Israel over the Dimonareactor, and in a May 18 letter told then-Prime Minister DavidBen-Gurion that relations would be seriously jeopardized if theUnited States was unable to retain reliable information on Israel'snuclear program.
Based on almost 10 years of research, the book examines thehistory of Israel's nuclear efforts from 1950 to 1970, the alliancewith France that gave Israel the sophisticated technology it needed,and negotiations between President Nixon and then-Prime MinisterGolda Meir that led to cessation of U.S. inspections of the Israelireactor.
Cohen, an Israeli researcher who lives in Takoma Park, Md.,reviewed more than a million documents at presidential libraries,the U.S. National Archives and the Israel State Archives in Jerusalemand conducted more than 100 interviews. He also obtained severaldocuments through the Freedom of Information Act, including Kennedy'sletters to Ben-Gurion.
Israel has never acknowledged that it has nuclear weapons,saying only it would not be the first to use them in the region.But Western intelligence reports say Israel is the only nuclearpower in the Middle East and has a significant stockpile.
The Israeli government repeatedly asked Cohen, an Israeli,to submit the book to its chief military censor, according tothe office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Cohen, a senior research fellow at the National Security Archiveat George Washington University, declined on the ground that hisbook is not based on classified information.
The Israeli government had no other comments about the book.
Cohen writes that Israel achieved a nuclear weapons capabilitybefore the Six-Day War in June 1967. In the tense days of thecrisis, the capability was quickly made operational. On the eveof the war, Israel improvised two deliverable nuclear explosivedevices.
Myer Feldman, deputy counsel in the White House under PresidentsKennedy and Johnson, told Cohen that as early as the mid-1960s,some in the U.S. intelligence community knew or believed the Israelishad materials and components for two nuclear bombs.
``I remember very well the number two,'' said Feldman, wholeft government in April 1965.
Israel began seeking a nuclear weapons capability in 1955,seven years after the country's birth, according to the book.
It started construction at Dimona in 1958, but it took theUnited States almost three years to discover it despite aerialpictures from U-2 reconnaissance flights that showed the excavationand other intelligence data and leads.
Israel referred to the site as a metallurgical plant or atextile plant.
``The late discovery of Dimona is a major blunder of Americanintelligence,'' said Cohen. ``From an Israeli perspective, however,this failure was crucial for the survival of the nuclear project.Had the United States discovered Dimona soon after its launching,... the Dimona project might never have been completed.''
The Dimona project became public in December 1960. Kennedyinsisted that Israel allow two U.S. scientists to inspect thereactor because he wanted to ensure it was being used for peacefulpurposes with no weapons-related activities.
In spring 1963, Kennedy, in a secret National Security ActionMemorandum, directed the Defense and State Departments, the CIAand the Atomic Energy Commission to improve U.S. intelligenceon the Israeli nuclear program and arrange for a new inspectionof Dimona.
Annual inspections began in 1964, after Ben-Gurion resigned,and continued until 1969. U.S. scientists found no direct evidencethat Israel was engaged in weapons-related activities.
In 1970, Nixon and Meir reached an understanding in whichthe United States would look the other way as long as Israel keepsa low profile and sticks to its policy of not being the firstin the region to use nuclear weapons. That understanding remainsoperative.
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