WASHINGTON (Oct. 25)
A series of denials was issued here today in connection with an article in Rolling Stone magazine alleging that Israel has been systematically stealing uranium from Western stockpiles to produce an arsenal of nuclear bombs. State Department spokesman John Trattner told reporters, “We don’t have a thing” on the story and noted that it was “denied” by the Israeli Embassy. An Embassy spokesman said earlier that Israel has never stolen or secretly purchased enriched uranium “either in the United States or anywhere else in the world.”
Rolling Stone associate editor Howard Kohn and Barbara Newman, a Washington correspondent for National Public Radio, who co-authored the article, said at a press conference yesterday that the account of the hijackings of four European uranium shipments by Israeli commandos was based on information from two U.S. official and two former U.S. officials. The article released yesterday, claimed that former Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Gerald R. Ford knew smuggling was taking place at the nuclear plant in Pennsylvania but directed that no investigation be made.
A spokesman for Ford said today that “the President was briefed as to a possible diversion of some uranium” but “it was not so conclusive to be considered a hard type of evidence.” A spokesman for British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. said “the story is absolute nonsense.” U.S. intelligence sources said they never heard of any uranium hijackings in France and Britain and doubted that any had taken place.
A spokesman for the Israeli Consulate in New York called the story “baseless and pure speculation” and charged that it was disseminated by “enemies of Israel to blacken the reputation of Israel.”
According to Rolling Stone, Israel put together a nuclear arsenal with uranium stolen from Britain and France nine years ago. The magazine alleged that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates that Israel has produced as many as 15 “powerful nuclear bombs” from the hijacked uranium. The magazine also said Israel smuggled several hundred pounds of bomb-grade uranium from the Pennsylvania facility.