Olmert hints at Israel air raid on Syria

Other News Materials 29 October 2007 07:30 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - In the closest that Israel has come to confirming a mysterious air raid in Syria, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert acknowledged to his Cabinet on Sunday that Turkish airspace might have been violated during the operation.

Israel has not officially commented on the raid or acknowledged carrying it out. But at Sunday's Cabinet meeting, Olmert offered an ambiguous apology to Turkey, which has complained to Israel that its aircraft dropped fuel tanks on Turkish territory during the incursion.

"If Israeli planes indeed penetrated Turkish airspace, then it was without prior intent or any intent to infringe upon or undermine Turkish sovereignty, which we respect," a statement from Olmert's office cited him as telling the Cabinet.

In a conversation with Turkey's prime minister last week, Olmert "expressed Israel's apologies to the Turkish government and the Turkish people for any harm that might have been caused," the statement said.

The Sept. 6 airstrike has been enveloped in secrecy. Syrian President Bashar Assad said the attack targeted an unused military building.

But reports following the incident have contradicted that account, and commercial satellite images have indicated a nuclear reactor site might have been destroyed. Syria has denied developing a nuclear reactor.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Sunday criticized the United States and Israel for failing to provide the U.N. watchdog with intelligence about Syria's purported nuclear program.

ElBaradei told CNN that the IAEA had not received any information about a Syrian program until after the bombing, which he called "distressing."

"We have a system. If countries have information that a country is working on a nuclear-related program, they should come to us," said ElBaradai. "But to bomb first and then ask questions later, I think it undermines the system and it doesn't lead to any solution to any suspicion."