The head of the UN atomic watchdog, Yukiya Amano, on Thursday said for the first time that Syria tried in the past to secretly build a nuclear reactor, which was destroyed by Israeli warplanes five years ago, The Associated Press reported.

Syria denies that the building which was bombed actually contained any nuclear facilities.

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For over two years, Syria has refused IAEA follow-up access to the remains of a complex that was being built at Dair Alzour in the Syrian desert when Israel bombed it to rubble in 2007.

The IAEA carried out an agreed inspection of another Syrian plant earlier in April as part of a long-stalled probe into suspected covert nuclear activity.

"The inspection is being conducted as planned," an official of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said, giving no further detail.

The visit to the Homs facility in western Syria was part of a wider IAEA inquiry into US intelligence suggesting Syria at another location tried to build a nuclear reactor suited to producing plutonium for atomic bombs.

Syria, which denies any nuclear weapons ambitions, agreed with the IAEA early last month that its inspectors could travel to the Homs acid purification plant, where uranium concentrates, or yellowcake, have been a by-product.

The IAEA saw it as a possible positive step, even though the United States said the gesture would not be enough to address allegations of covert atomic activity.

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