President Shimon Peres speaking in Hadera
President Shimon Peres, May 2010. Photo by Itzik Ben-Malki
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The president's residence has issued an angry response to a report published in the British daily newspaper The Guardian, according to which Shimon Peres, while defense minister, held secret contacts in the 1970s with the South African apartheid regime for the sale of nuclear weapons.

"There is no foundation to, and no basis in reality for the report," the statement read. "To our regret, the newspaper article was based on documents that merely constitute written interpretations on the part of government elements in South Africa - not on documents that present facts."

The report, which appeared in The Guardian on Sunday, caused a great deal of embarrassment for Peres. After holding consultations, he decided to publish an unequivocal denial of the account.

Sources at the president's residence stressed that Israel did not carry out any negotiations for the sale of nuclear weapons to Pretoria.

"The publications do not include any original and signed Israeli document that confirms the existence of talks or negotiations on a subject of this kind," the president's spokesman said. "The president's residence is distressed by the fact that The Guardian did not see fit to approach senior government officials in Israel to request a response on the matter. The presidential residence intends to send a sharp letter about this to the editor and to demand that the correct facts be published."