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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

On to another international matter, one with many more questions than answers right now: Israel's air strike inside Syria last month.

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr is keeping up with the latest on what's known about the raid, which isn't very much.

DANIEL SCHORR: It was mystifying from the start. On September 6th, Syria claimed that its air defenses had repelled attacking Israeli planes. But there was no word of what, if anything, had been struck. Nor would Israel say anything. And President Bush said emphatically, I am not going to comment on the matter.

With memories of the Israeli bombing of the Baghdad nuclear reactor in 1981, many people wondered whether a Syrian nuclear installation could have been the target, or perhaps nuclear materials transiting Syria on the way from North Korea to Iran. Then finally a week ago, Syria said the target had been an unused military building. Israel limited itself to say it was a military target - unspecified.

What now emerges is that the Bush administration remained hush-hush about the attack because it had prior knowledge of the Israeli intelligence that led to the raid.

The issue has now split the president's advisors. According to the New York Times today, Vice President Dick Cheney led the group urging the United States to reconsider its diplomatic overtures to Syria and to North Korea. Ranged against Cheney were Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. They counseled caution about accepting Israeli warnings of an immediate nuclear threat from Syria.

Only last week, an American negotiator reached agreement with North Korea about disabling its nuclear facility and urged the North Korean government not to share nuclear weapons material.

Syria is important to the story because if Syria is getting nuclear aid from North Korea, then the Bush administration's policy of peaceful settlement with the Hermit Kingdom could come to a grinding halt. But few know what it was that Israel attacked in Syria, and those who do know are so far, not telling.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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