WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. intelligence officials on Thursday were showing members of Congress a videotape and other evidence supporting their case that Syria was building a nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance before it was bombed by Israeli planes last year.
Intelligence officials who have seen the evidence consider it "extremely compelling," a U.S. official said, adding that it was gleaned from a variety of sources, not just Israeli intelligence. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said the Bush administration would issue a public statement later in the day.
CIA Director Michael Hayden and other intelligence officials went to Capitol Hill to brief Congress on the evidence related to the bombed Syrian facility, scheduling appearances before the House and Senate armed services, intelligence and foreign affairs committees.
The Syrian reactor was similar in design to a North Korean reactor that has in the past produced small amounts of plutonium, the official said. It was not yet complete but was far enough along to demonstrate a resemblance to the North Korean reactor at Yonbyon.
The official said no uranium _ the fuel for a reactor _ was evident on site. Syria has maintained in the past that the site was an unused military facility.
Syria did not declare the apparent reactor to the International Atomic Energy Agency nor was it under international safeguards, possibly putting Syria in breech of an international nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
Plutonium-producing reactors are of international interest because plutonium can be used to make high-yield nuclear weapons or conventional bombs that disperse radioactive material when they explode, rendering an area potentially unsafe for humans for years.
Israeli warplanes bombed the site in Syria on Sept. 6, 2007. Private analysts said at the time it appeared to have been the site of a reactor, based on commercial satellite imagery taken after the raid. Syria later razed the site. A new, larger building has been constructed in its place.
Commercial satellite imagery from January analyzed by the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington shows the new building is 60 meters by 60 meters, compared to the original 47-by-47 building that was destroyed last year. It has a vaulted roof, different from the original flat roof. It appears to be connected by a series of trenches and pipes to a possible water treatment facility.
U.S. officials said Israel shared intelligence with the United States before the bombing after administration officials expressed doubts that the site was a nuclear reactor built with North Korea's assistance, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the existence of the videotape on its Web site Wednesday.
The target of Israel's raid has been veiled in secrecy, with U.S. intelligence and government officials refusing to confirm until now suspicions that the site was to be a nuclear reactor.
Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East subcommittee, accused the Bush administration of selectively leaking the classified information, which he called "bizarre behavior."
While reporters without security clearances were selectively given information "most of us got no information whatsoever," Ackerman said as he opened a separate hearing on U.S. policy toward Syria.
Ackerman said members of Congress who attend the intelligence briefings later Thursday would be bound to secrecy and that as a result many members would stay away from the sessions.
Sharply criticizing the administration, Ackerman said, "This is the selective control of information that led us to war in Iraq."
As part of the information release, U.S. officials were briefing members of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, at its Vienna headquarters.
John Rood, the under secretary of state for arms control, called IAEA chief Mohamed elBaradei on Thursday morning to detail the presentation and an inter-agency intelligence team was in Vienna to brief IAEA representatives either Thursday or Friday, a senior U.S. official said.
The revelation of alleged North Korean cooperation with Syria comes at a sensitive time for Pyongyang.
U.S. diplomats are pressing North Korea to come clean about its nuclear cooperation with Syria as part of those talks but have had little success.
Under an agreement reached last year with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, the North is required to give a full account of its nuclear programs, including whether it has spread nuclear technology.
North Korea claims it gave the nuclear declaration to the U.S. in November, but U.S. officials say the North never produced a "complete and correct" declaration.
The Capitol Hill briefings come the same week a U.S. delegation went to North Korea to press the regime for a detailed list of its nuclear programs, the latest sticking point at international nuclear disarmament talks.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.