* Israelis asked Bush to act
* Feared a bombing mission would create "blowback"
* Bush says did not give Israel green light
(Adds details, background)
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, Nov 5 Former President George W.
Bush says he considered ordering a U.S. military strike against
a suspected Syrian nuclear facility at Israel's request in 2007
but ultimately opted against it.
Israel eventually destroyed the facility, which Syria
denied was aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability.
In his memoir, "Decision Points," to hit bookstores on
Tuesday, Bush wrote that he received an intelligence report
about a "suspicious, well-hidden facility in the eastern desert
of Syria" that looked similar to a nuclear facility at
Yongbyon, North Korea. This prompted suspicions that Syria was
trying to develop a weapons program with North Korean help.
Shortly afterward, he spoke by phone with then-Israeli
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
"George, I'm asking you to bomb the compound," Olmert told
Bush, according to the book, a copy of which was obtained by
Bush said he discussed options with his national security
team. A bombing mission was considered "but bombing a sovereign
country with no warning or announced justification would create
severe blowback," he wrote.
A covert raid was discussed but it was considered too risky
to slip a team in and out of Syria undetected.
Bush received an intelligence assessment from then-CIA
Director Mike Hayden, who reported that analysts had high
confidence the plant housed a nuclear reactor but low
confidence of a Syrian nuclear weapons program.
Bush said told Olmert, "I cannot justify an attack on a
sovereign nation unless my intelligence agencies stand up and
say it's a weapons program."
Bush had ordered the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003
based on intelligence that said Iraq possessed weapons of mass
destruction, which were never found.
Olmert was disappointed by Bush's decision to recommend a
strategy of using diplomacy backed up by the threat of force to
deal with Syria over the facility.
"Your strategy is very disturbing to me," Olmert told Bush,
according to the book.
Bush denies charges that arose at the time that he had
given a "green light" for Israel to attack the installation.
"Prime Minister Olmert hadn't asked for a green light and I
hadn't given one. He had done what he believed was necessary to
protect Israel," Bush wrote.
In Jerusalem, Olmert's office declined comment on the
disclosures in the Bush memoir.
Israel has never formally confirmed carrying out the sortie
nor that it targeted a nuclear facility. The Olmert government
was pursuing indirect peace talks with Syria at the time.
But Olmert, who resigned in a corruption scandal in 2008,
has recently lifted the veil, speaking of a "daring operation"
that he ordered despite opposition from his rival, Ehud Barak,
who was then and now is defense minister.
In Vienna on Friday, the United States warned Syria it may
face action by governors of the U.N. nuclear watchdog if
Damascus fails to give its inspectors access to the remains of
the suspected nuclear site. It has been more than two years
since the International Atomic Energy Agency was allowed to
visit the site.
Bush wrote that Olmert's "execution of the strike" against
the Syrian compound made up for the confidence he had lost in
the Israelis during their 2006 war against Hezbollah in
Lebanon, which Bush feels had a mixed outcome.
Lebanon's young democracy emerged from the conflict
stronger for having endured the test, Bush said, but "the
result for Israel was mixed."
"It's military campaign weakened Hezbollah and helped
secure its border. At the same time, the Israelis' shaky
military performance cost them international credibility," Bush
Bush's book is published by Crown Books, a subsidiary of
the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann BERT.UL.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Fredrik
Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Vicki Allen and Bill Trott)