(photo credit: AP [file])
Two weeks after Israel's alleged bombing raid in Syria, which some foreign reports said targeted North Korean nuclear material, the UN's nuclear watchdog elected Syria as deputy chairman of its General Conference on Monday.
The 51st session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) opened in Vienna on Monday and will run through Friday.
The Syrian news agency SANA proudly reported the election on Tuesday, adding that Syria was also successful in including "the Israeli nuclear arsenal as an item on the agenda of the conference."
The agenda for the meeting includes the item "Israeli nuclear capabilities and threat." While Iran will be a focus of the discussions, there is no item on the agenda referring to the Islamic Republic by name.
Israel's Foreign Ministry had "no public comment" on Syria's election.
But Gerald Steinberg, chairman of Bar-Ilan University's political science department and an authority on nonproliferation, said the election "reflects the absurdity of the political process inside the IAEA."
The deputy chairman has no real power and is merely a symbolic post, similar to a deputy president of the UN General Assembly or a deputy speaker of the Knesset, he said. However, Steinberg added, "this move shows how little these types of international frameworks can really do when some of the main players are also the main violators of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."
Steinberg said that both Iraq and Iran have held similar positions within the IAEA in the past. He also said there was no connection between the political level and the organization's technological branches under the directorship of Mohamed ElBaradei, which inspect nuclear facilities.
The General Conference, made up of some 144 countries, is the least important of the IAEA's three main bodies. The other two bodies are the Board of Governors and the Secretariat.
The General Conference meets annually to approve budgets and to discuss nuclear-related issues and IAEA policy.â€¢