France Denies Promise to Iraq to Help Rebuild Nuclear Reactor Destroyed by Israel Six Years Ago

Prime Minister Jacques Chirac denied Wednesday a press report saying that he had secretly promised Iraq to rebuild a French-made nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel six years ago.

Chirac also told Israeli Ambassador Ovadia Soffer that not only is the report “false and groundless” but that there have been no negotiations with Baghdad on this subject and that as far as he is concerned “this issue is definitely closed.”

A usually reliable weekly, Le Canard Enchaine, claimed Wednesday that Chirac had promised Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to rebuild the two reactors, Tamuz One and Tamuz Two, bombed by Israeli Air Force planes in June 1981. The Canard Enchaine report was based on an official letter from Chirac to Saddam Hussein recalling their past relationship and referring to “the negotiation you know about” without giving further details. Chirac’s letter, dated June 24, 1987 also served to introduce Foreign Trade Minister Michel Noir, who met with Hussein in Baghdad a few days later.

Both the French Foreign Ministry and sources close to the Elysee also denied the report. The Atomic Energy Commission, in charge of nuclear cooperation abroad, also said it had had no contacts with Iraq since the beginning of the year.

Jewish sources stress that the man the Canard Enchaine said was in charge of the negotiations, Noir, is known as one of Israel’s best friends in the current administration and would most probably refuse to carry out this sort of mission.

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