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Israel cannot spare any effort to foil, prevent or delay the attainment of weapons of mass destruction by countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lybia, the head of Israel's Mossad said yesterday.

Speaking to a meeting of NATO's North Atlantic Council in Brussels yesterday, Mossad director, Ephraim Halevy, warned that radical Islamic terrorism as a whole, and suicide attacks in particular, pose a "formidable threat" to NATO member states whose "Muslim communities are rapidly developing and increasing in numbers and influence."

Halevy took the opportunity to harshly criticize Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, who he says signs "an agreement with a view to violating it the moment circumstances would permit." The Palestinian leader is also maintaining his "traditional link" with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, said Halevy.

The head of Israel's secret intelligence agency urges "appropriate behavior" be a condition for any entity aspiring for nationhood and sovereignity.

The meeting took place behind closed doors, and lasted for some three hours, beyond the time originally allocated. U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns quoted from President George W. Bush's speech from Monday, reiterating American support for Israel's right to defend itself, and speaking of the U.S. Administration's duty to its ally.

The European ambassadors also spoke with sympathy for the Israeli victims of terror and demonstrated understanding for Israel's operation against terrorism, though they also spoke of the need for a political horizon.

Participants at the meeting said it was an important opportunity for Israel to present its position, to convince foreign governments of the pressing need for global cooperation in the fight against terror, as well as fathoming European opinions.

The most senior participant at the meeting was NATO's secretary-general, Lord George Robertson, with chairman of the military committee, Italian Admiral Guido Venturoni, also in attendance. Israel's contingent was headed by its envoy to NATO and European Union bodies, Harry Kney-Tal. After Halevy's presentation, Brigadier General Eival Gilady of the General Staff's planning branch presented the military aspects to battling terrorism.

Yesterday's meeting was part of NATO's annual round of political consultations with seven Mediterranean and North African countries, with this year's talks focusing on terrorism.

Halevy told the council that Mossad believes, despite the denials of the Iranian defense minister, that Iran is investing heavily in developing long-range missiles, with a range even beyond that of its Shihab-3, which is believed to have a range of 3,000 kilometers. He said Iran is researching and developing "missiles with longer ranges, which could reach Europe and in the future, even North America." He said he had "no reason to offer for this entry into such long-range development," nor did he know who and what the potential targets would be.

In addition, said Halevy, Iran is developing "weapon-grade nuclear capabilities," though he quickly added, "for obvious reasons, I will not detail our information on this sensitive issue." Halevy pointed out that this activity coupled with Iran's investment in delivery systems "should be a subject of constant attention of everyone of us in this hall."

Iran's adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Halevy believes, is nothing more than "a cover for the construction of a dual purpose civilian infrastructure which could be converted very speedily into production capabilities of large quantities of VX [gas]." In addition, Tehran is also carrying out research and development on biological warfare, according to the Mossad chief.

As to the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein, Halevy said one must assume Iraq had been trying to acquire nuclear capabilities ever since the United Nations' monitoring team was expeled in 1998. "As you know, on the eve of the Gulf War, Iraq was on the verge of obtaining nuclear capability. They were months away from producing fissile material," he told the officials.

"We have clear indications that this has been and is their unswerving desire ... We have partial evidence that they have renewed their production of VX and possibly Anthrax. As to delivery systems, we have sufficient evidence to affirm that they are sparing no effort to preserve their residuary capabilities and to augment them with new ones."

Turning his attentions to Syria, Halevy said Israel had been "following [their] acquisition and subsequent production of North Korean type Scud B, C and D missiles." He added most of the warheads are conventional, but "the Syrians also have B and C capabilities with relevance to surface-to-surface missiles." In addition, the Syrians have also produced Sarin (GB) nerve agents and are studying manufacturing VX nerve agents.

Halevy urged those present to keep a close eye on Libya, "which is developing long-range missiles with North Korean support," reminding them also that "Libya has often been mentioned as a country striving to achieve nuclear capability."

A significant part of Halevy's lecture was devoted to terrorism. Suicide attacks, that had once been "a marginal phenomenon characterizing the approach of a small extreme segment of society," is, according to the Mossad chief, "rapidly evolving into a quasi-legitimate form of combat, encouraged and abetted at leadership level in the Palestinian camp." The attacks on New York, Washington and Jerusalem are all "the fulfillment of a modus operandi motivated not only by its professional utility, but no less by its ideological and religious probity."

"The more these act become prevalent," he warned, "the more the chance this will become a potent and prioritized weapon in future confrontations." Halevy then called for "terrorism as a whole and suicide bombings in particular" to be recognized as a "form of war" which must be outlawed and prohibited by international law. All those involved in such activities, or those who condoned them, "must be placed outside the pale of justice." Halevy said he hoped "the days of rogue states and authorities acting as masters, not only of their own destiny, but also of yours and ours, must be numbered."

The Palestinian Authority was place alongside Syria, Iran and Iraq on his list of "host countries" which facilitate terrorist and suicide bombings. Halevy told the council how "Arafat has placed the theme of the suicide bomber - the martyr - the shaheed - at the top of his priorities." The reforms promised by the Palestinian leader are nothing more than "swift window dressing moves."

He also warned of Iran's increasing support for terrorism, and its growing influence over the PA, with the Karine A arms ship affair serving as a prominent example.

In closing, Halevy said terrorism and suicide bombings can only be practiced if "there is a safe haven for training, planning and the procurement of weaponry." He said states and individual leaders have responsibility for what goes on in areas under their control. "Ultimately," said Halevy, "the international community will have no option but to force them to be accountable. Otherwise, the whole international system of nation-states exercising their sovereignty over land and people will be in jeopardy."