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Yuval Neeman, 80, founder of Israel's space program

JERUSALEM -- Yuval Neeman, founder of Israel's space program and a key figure in the nation's nuclear efforts, died yesterday, his daughter said. He was 80.

Dr. Neeman suffered a stroke earlier this week and was taken to Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital, where he died, the hospital said.

Dr. Neeman, a world-renowned nuclear physicist, also played a role in Israeli politics. In 1979, he was one of the founders of the hawkish Tehiya Party, which broke away from the ruling Likud in opposition to Israel's peace treaty with Egypt. He served as science minister from 1990-92.

Born in 1925 in Tel Aviv, he studied at Israel's Technion University, Imperial College in London, and Advanced School for War Studies in Paris, and received a PhD from the University of London. He received Israel's highest civilian honor, the Israel Prize, in 1969, for his work in the exact sciences.

He was a pioneer in Israel's nuclear program, serving as a member of the country's Nuclear Energy Commission between 1952 and 1961 and scientific director of one of Israel's nuclear reactors during the two following years.

Although Israel has always insisted it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East, it is thought to have a large number of nuclear weapons developed at its reactors, and Dr. Neeman was said to have played an important part in the program.

Dr. Neeman established the Israel Space Agency in 1983, devoted to research and development of Israeli rockets and satellites. He died a day after Israel's latest satellite, Eros B, was launched into orbit on a Russian rocket.

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