TEL AVIV ø Israel's intelligence community detected Libya's nuclear
weapons program as early as 2001, but a public disclosure by Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon slammed the door on vital data exchange with Britain and the
Israeli military sources said the intelligence community learned of the
outlines of Libya's nuclear weapons program about three years ago and
reported this to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and leading ministers. But the
sources said Sharon disclosed Libya's nuclear program publicly on two
occasions, thereby angering Britain and the United States.
The account by the military sources was confirmed by a U.S. official.
The official said Britain and the United States refused to discuss Libya's
weapons program out of concern of Israeli leaks amid the Western effort to
Moammar Khaddafy to abandon its weapons of mass destruction.
On Sunday, an Israeli parliamentary report asserted that Israeli
security agencies failed to track and assess the progress in Libya's nuclear
program, Middle East Newsline reported. Instead,
the report said, Israel learned of Libya's procurement of advanced
centrifuges from Britain and the United States when they announced in
December 2003 Tripoli's agreement to dismantle its weapons of mass
"The U.S. intelligence community was furious with Sharon and a
high-level message told him to stop discussing the subject," the U.S.
official said. "At that point, the subject became taboo in the intelligence
exchange between Israel and the United States."
Libya was cited as one of two major failures by the Israeli intelligence
community over the last decade, the report said. The report, questioning
whether Tripoli's WMD programs were a suitable priority in the intelligence
community, found it hard to imagine that Libya could develop a nuclear
weapons infrastructure without Israel's knowledge. The unclassified version
of the report did not provide details of Libya's nuclear weapons program.
Israeli military sources said military intelligence and the Mossad
detected the Libyan nuclear weapons program before that of other Western
intelligence agencies. But they said the information obtained by Israel
consisted of no more than a broad outline of Libya's nuclear weapons
"There is no question that the British and U.S. access to Libya's WMD
facilities gave these countries a much clearer and more detailed picture of
Tripoli's nuclear weapons program," a military source said. "We were kept
out of that loop, altogether."