BBC: Britain aided Israeli nuclear program

March 10, 2006 at 9:25 PM

LONDON, March 10 (UPI) -- Britain sold Israel plutonium and heavy water in the 1960s, helping to kickstart its nuclear weapons program, the BBC reports.

Using documents obtained under freedom of information laws, the BBC says that Britain deliberately misled the International Atomic Energy Agency. Mike Michaels, Britain's representative to the IAEA, reportedly played a critical part in assisting Israel.

Michaels knew that supplying Israel with a small quantity of plutonium would allow the country to develop nuclear weapons much sooner.

The sales took place under the government of Conservative Harold Macmillan, who was prime minister from 1957 to 1963, and his Labor successor, Harold Wilson, who was in charge from 1964 to 1970.

In the heavy water sale, Britain had bought a surplus from Norway. The sale to Israel was done through an intermediate company, the BBC said.

Tony Benn, who served as technology minister under Wilson, said he was unaware of the export of nuclear materials to Israel at the time.

"I'm not only surprised, I'm shocked," he said.

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