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Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Egypt arrests nuclear engineer 'working for Israel'

Egyptian authorities said on Tuesday they had smashed a spy ring working for Israel which included an Egyptian engineer with Cairo's atomic energy commission, an Irishman and a Japanese national. The Egyptian had been arrested and had confessed, while the two other suspects, including one named as Shiro Aizo, were being hunted, state prosecutor Abdel Meduid Mahmud told reporters.

He said the Egyptian, Mohammed Sayyed Saber, 35, was accused of supplying information to the Israeli secret service Mossad on "the different activities" of Egypt's atomic energy body. According to the official MENA news agency, Saber helped Israeli intelligence hack into the Egyptian Atomic Agency's computer network between February 2006 and February 2007, in exchange for 17,000 dollars and a laptop.

He provided Israeli intelligence with classified documents pertaining to Egypt's Inshas nuclear research centre, north of Cairo. Saber was reported to have paid frequent visits to the Israeli embassy in Cairo in May 1999 in the hope of getting a scholarship to study nuclear engineering at Tel Aviv University, MENA said. The Egyptian was questioned at Cairo airport as he returned from Hong Kong, said the prosecutor, adding that the Irishman was not detained and had fled.

Saber, with his two alleged accomplices being tried in absentia, would face Egypt's high security court, the state prosecutor said. Last September, Egypt announced it was resuming its civilian nuclear programme after a freeze of 20 years and said it planned to build at least one nuclear power plant by the year 2020.

Israel, which vehemently opposes Iran's nuclear programme despite Tehran saying it is for peaceful use, is believed to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East with an estimated 200 warheads. Neither the Irish nor Japanese embassies in Cairo could immediately confirm the reports.

Israel's embassy spokesman Benny Sharoni said, "All that we know about this matter comes from the media. Up to the present, we have no official Egyptian information on this subject."
The state security court is already holding one trial for alleged spying for Israel, with one Egyptian in the dock and other suspects again being tried in their absence.

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979.