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Tuesday, 12 May, 1998, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK
Israel admits it spied on US
Jonathan Pollard on good terms with the  Israeli communications minister Limor Livnat who visited him in prison last year
Jonathan Pollard with Israeli communications minister Limor Livnat who visited him in prison
Israel has officially acknowledged for the first time that an American Jew, Jonathan Pollard, who was arrested in the United States 13 years ago, was one of its spies.

Pollard, a former intelligence analyst for the United States navy, is serving a life sentence in North Carolina for passing classified military documents to Israel.

Until now, the Israeli authorities had always denied that Pollard was working under their direction.

The admission came in a statement from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office, and acknowledged that he was handled by high-ranking officials in a scientific relations bureau.

"In light of this fact, the State of Israel acknowledges its obligation to Mr Pollard and is ready to accept full responsibility accordingly,' the statement said.

Agent drops his own case

It said that Pollard had agreed to drop a petition pending in Israel's Supreme Court asking for a formal recognition that he was indeed an agent in exchange for the announcement.

"I am relieved, thankful and honoured," Pollard's wife Esther told the Associated Press news agency by telephone from her home in Toronto, Canada.

The admission came on the eve of a visit by Mr Netanyahu to the United States to meet Jewish leaders and the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Last month, Israeli media reported that a government committee set up by Mr Netanyahu was working out a plan to recognise Pollard as a spy and work for his release.

Several government ministers have visited Pollard in jail this past year, raising speculation that the government was taking his case more seriously.

Now officially an Israeli

Pollard has been granted Israeli citizenship and his lawyer believes the public acknowledgment will help chances for a pardon.

In November 1985, while on the run from the US authorities, Pollard sought refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, but was refused entry.

Mrs Pollard has said the information her husband gave Israel over a decade ago was about the build-up of arms in neighbouring countries that some American officials did not want Israel to have.

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