Peres slams Guardian report on S. Africa nukes

Foreign Ministry spokesman calls UK report "biased babble."

President Shimon Peres. (photo credit: ap)
President Shimon Peres.
(photo credit: ap)
President Shimon Peres issued a sharp denial Monday of a story which appeared in The Guardian Monday alleging Israel offered to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid era South Africa, saying at the claims have “no basis in reality.”
“There exists no basis in reality for the claims published this morning by The Guardian that in 1975 Israel negotiated with South Africa the exchange of nuclear weapons,” said the statement put out from Peres’ office soon after the story appeared. “Unfortunately, The Guardian elected to write its piece based on the selective interpretation of South African documents and not on concrete facts.”
Peres completely denied that Israel ever “negotiated the exchange of nuclear weapons with South Africa. There exists no Israeli document or Israeli signature on a document that such negotiations took place.”
The story, which claims to contain “the first documentary evidence” of Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, alleges that in 1975, South African Defense Minister PW Botha met secretly with Peres, who was then Israel’s defense minister, and asked for nuclear warheads, which Peres allegedly offered “in three sizes.” The paper wrote that in the same meeting the two also signed a secret, broad-ranging military agreement.
According to the Guardian, the documents were uncovered by American academic Sasha Polakow-Suransky for his book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s secret alliance with apartheid South Africa.
The Guardian published a photo of what it said were the signatures of Peres and Botha on a 1975 secret military agreement between the countries.
The Guardian alleges that the documents confirm accounts by Dieter Gerhardt, a South African naval commander jailed in 1984 for spying for the Soviets.
After his release and the end of the apartheid regime, he said that Israel offered eight Jericho ballistic missiles armed with “special warheads” to South Africa.
The Guardian reported that cost considerations prevented Botha from concluding the deal, which also would have to be approved by Israel’s Prime Minister “and it is uncertain it would have been forthcoming.”
South Africa went on to develop its own nuclear weapons, which were deactivated after the collapse of the apartheid regime in 1994.
The Guardian, in the news article, said the documents “will also undermine Israel’s attempts to suggest that, if it has nuclear weapons, it is a ‘responsible’ power that would not misuse them, whereas countries such as Iran cannot be trusted.”
The President’s Office, in its statement, said it regretted “The Guardian’s decision to publish such an article without requesting comment from any Israeli officials.”
The statement said Peres intended to “send a harsh letter to the editor of The Guardian and demand the publication of the true facts.”
Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor, who is also in charge of atomic affairs, was asked for his reaction to the story at a Jerusalem press conference, and said, “I heard a clear and simple reaction from President Peres saying the whole thing is simply not true, and I believe Mr. Peres. Peres said it is not true, so it is not true.”
One diplomatic official said that the documents that the Guardian published “don’t prove anything. At most one can conclude, if one wants, that there was a discussion about selling Jericho missiles, but not with [nuclear] warheads.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that “when headlines claim to reveal a hidden fact, and the documents presented as evidence indicate nothing of the sort, one has no choice but to call it as it is: biased babble.”
“This is nothing more than another shot by the Guardian at was has been the top item on their agenda in recent years; linking Israel to apartheid at all costs, including at the cost of proof and fact,” Palmor said.