- The head of the UN nuclear watchdog took a swipe at Israel on Monday
for "allegedly" bombing to rubble a suspected Syrian reactor site in
2007, saying the case should have been reported to his agency instead.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been investigating Syria
for three years over possible undeclared nuclear activity at the Dair
Alzour site in the desert.
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US intelligence reports said it was a nascent North Korean-designed reactor intended to make bomb-grade plutonium.
IAEA board is expected to rebuke Syria later this week for carrying out
covert atomic work, but a Western push to refer it to the UN Security
Council appears to have failed to win backing from several states.
Diplomats said those expressing doubt about this step against Syria -- which is also facing Western sanctions over its violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests -- included Russia and China as well as some Arab states and developing countries.
Syria denies harboring a nuclear weapons program but has blocked access to Dair Alzour since a one-off visit of IAEA inspectors in 2008.
"It is deeply regrettable that the facility was destroyed -- allegedly
by Israel -- without the agency having been given an opportunity to
perform its verification role," IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano told
the IAEA's 35-nation governing board.
"Rather than force being used, the case should have been reported to the
IAEA," he said, according to a copy of his remarks at a closed-door
IAEA meeting set to rebuke Syria
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied bombing the site and has not
formally commented on what might have been there. It is widely accepted
among diplomats and IAEA officials that Israel carried out the attack.
In a memoir published last year, former US President George W. Bush said
Israel bombed the site after failing to persuade his administration to
carry out the strike.
Amano also reiterated that the site was "very likely" to have been a
nuclear reactor which Damascus should have reported to the IAEA, an
assessment that opened up the possibility of a Security Council
Signalling the IAEA's growing frustration, Amano said Syria had been given ample time to cooperate but had declined to do so.
"Nevertheless, we had obtained enough information to draw a conclusion. I
judged it appropriate to inform member states of our conclusion at this
stage as it was in no one's interest to let this situation drag on
In an apparent effort to fend off a Security Council referral, Syria
wrote to Amano last month pledging to cooperate fully regarding Dair
Alzour. It did not say how it would do this.
Amano said the IAEA had since met Syrian officials but the talks had failed to produce any firm results.
"There were not [any] concrete elements to the discussion and we have
agreed to meet again after the Board of Governors meeting [on June
6-10]," he told a news conference.
Amano said that even if the Syrian nuclear file were sent to New York it
would not affect his willingness to engage. "I am looking forward to
working with them whatever happens," he said.