Memos: Israel Offered to Sell Nuclear Weapons to South Africa

Shimon Peres angrily denies reports
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2010 3:38 AM CDT
Updated May 24, 2010 6:07 AM CDT
Memos: Israel Offered to Sell Nuclear Weapons to South Africa
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks to Israeli President Shimon Peres, who has angrily denied reports he offered to sell nuclear weapons to South Africa's apartheid government.   (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, Pool)

Israel offered to sell South Africa's apartheid government nuclear weapons, according to recently declassified documents, reports the Guardian—a claim Israeli President Shimon Peres categorically denies. In minutes of top secret 1975 meetings, Peres, then defense minister, offered to sell nuclear-capable Jericho missiles to South African Defense Minister PW Botha. Initially, it appeared South Africa was to provide its own nuclear payloads for the missiles, but one memo detailed: "Minister Peres said the correct payload was available in three sizes. Minister Botha expressed his appreciation and said that he would ask for advice." The "three sizes" are believed to refer to conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons, reports the Guardian.

Officials also signed a military agreement that was to remain secret. The documents were discovered by American author and academic Sasha Polakow-Suransky, whose efforts to get the files declassified were vehemently opposed by Israeli authorities.The nuclear weapons deal was never made in part because of the cost, and because support wasn't certain from Israel's prime minister at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, according to Polakow-Suransky's book, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Aliance with Apartheid South Africa.
(More nuclear weapons stories.)

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