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Israel TV Shows Nuke Reactor Photos
By RON KAMPEAS, Associated Press Writer

August 16 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel's state-run television on Tuesday broadcast satellite shots of Israel's nuclear reactor, a sign of an increasing willingness to discuss the country's nuclear weapons capability.

The television broadcast photos of the reactor near Dimona, in the Negev desert, taken in 1968 and 1971, and appearing on the Federation of American Scientists Web site. The site does not source the satellite shots.

By clearly noting that the shots were drawn from the Web site, the TV complied with Israeli censorship laws, which allow local media unfettered license to quote foreign reports. The FAS monitors non-conventional weapons capabilities throughout the world.

Still, the broadcast would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Mordechai Vanunu, a one-time technician at the reactor, was jailed for 18 years in 1986 after he published photos in the London Sunday Times.

The pictures were featured during a televised debate over whether Avner Cohen, an Israeli writer living in self-imposed exile in the United States, should return to Israel to face charges that he broke the law with his 1998 book "Israel and the Bomb."

Authorities here have said they want to question Cohen.

Cohen, who joined the debate via satellite feed from Washington, said his book revealed nothing new and was based on published reports. His book argues that Israel and the United States worked out an understanding in 1970, believed to be still operative, in which the United States would look the other way as long as Israel kept a low profile and did not carry out nuclear tests.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Cohen faced charges because his book placed Israel at risk.

Israel has opted for a policy it describes as "opacity," refusing to confirm or deny whether it bears nuclear weapons.

Historians and academics publishing works on the Israeli military now routinely bypass the military censor if they are confident they have not revealed military secrets; as late as the mid-1990s, the censor ordered books removed from bookstores solely because the writer had not asked for prior permission to publish.

(On the Net: Federation of American Scientists page on the Israeli nuclear reactor was located at the following address, but it is no longer there.)

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