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The United States has released previously classified photographic evidence
The United States has released previously classified photographic evidence that it says proves North Korea helped Syria build a nuclear reactor.

The report relates to a site destroyed in September last year in an Israeli airstrike, an incident that had until now remained shrouded in secrecy, and comes amid mounting pressure on North Korea to disclose full information on its nuclear program ahead of a deal to break the deadlock at six-nation talks.

Although the CIA briefing to U.S. lawmakers and military officials on Thursday stopped short of linking the alleged nuclear facility to weapons production, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters after the meeting: "We have good reason to believe that the reactor, which was damaged beyond repair on September 6 of last year, was not intended for peaceful purposes."

A CIA image showing the site before the Israeli strikeSyria has dismissed the allegations, and has been quick to draw an analogy with the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, when U.S. intelligence provided similar 'evidence' that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

"This is a fantasy. I hope the truth will be revealed to everybody... This will be a major embarrassment to the U.S. administration for a second time - they lied about Iraqi WMDs and they think they can do it again," Syrian Ambassador to Washington Imad Moustapha said.

The CIA presentation entitled "Syria's covert nuclear reactor at Al Kibar" includes a photograph of the facility alongside the Yongbyon nuclear plant that North Korea was forced to disable last year, and highlights similarities between the two.

The video shows a non-descript square concrete building in a desert followed by a "three-dimensional computer model of the facility," and says that the remote location and fact that the site was built over immediately after the Israeli strike shows Syria had something to hide.

A photograph apparently showing the Syrian and North Korean nuclear chiefs meeting in Syria was also released.

The disclosures have thrown the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program into uncertainty, soon after Pyongyang gave positive signals on progress in the talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.

The reclusive state's official news agency said on Thursday that an April 22-24 meeting with a U.S. delegation on the issue "was constructive and led to significant progress."

The talks aimed at persuading North Korea to drop its nuclear ambitions in exchange for economic aid and diplomatic incentives stalled in January after the North missed a December 31 deadline to give a full account of its nuclear programs.

The White House spokeswoman called the alleged Syrian reactor "a dangerous and potentially destabilizing development for the region and the world", and linked the issue to Iran, the other of the three 'Axis of Evil' countries, which Washington accuses of pursuing a covert weapons program.

"This development also serves as a reminder that often the same regimes that sponsor proliferation also sponsor terrorism and foster instability, and co-operate with one another in doing so," she said.

"To confront this challenge, the international community must take further steps, beginning with the full implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions dealing with Iranian nuclear activities."

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