Diplomats: Syria's nuclear technology violated IAEA rules

After inspectors support allegations that site bombed by Israel was covert reactor, Western states push for UN referral.

May 25, 2011 17:25
2 minute read.
The Marj as Sultan site, Syria, July 25, 2008.

marj as sultan reactor syria_311. (photo credit: DigitalGlobe - ISIS)


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VIENNA - Western states are expected to push for Syria to be referred to the UN Security Council after UN inspectors gave independent support to US allegations that Damascus was building a covert nuclear reactor, diplomats say.

In a report to member states on Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency's chief assessed that a site in the Syrian desert bombed to rubble by Israel was "very likely" to have been a reactor that should have been declared to the IAEA.

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Western diplomats said this meant that Syria had failed to meet its obligation to cooperate with the UN atomic watchdog -- which seeks to ensure that nuclear technology is not diverted for military purposes and that no sensitive work is hidden.

They said their approach to the Syrian nuclear issue was not linked to Western condemnation of the Arab state's crackdown on pro-democracy unrest, stressing that Syria had stonewalled an IAEA probe for nearly three years and it was now time to act.

The United States and its European allies are expected to use the IAEA report's finding to lobby for a resolution by the agency's 35-nation board, meeting on June 6-10 in Vienna, to refer the Syrian file to the Security Council in New York.

"Such a move would send a strong signal that the international community will not tolerate egregious acts of nuclear proliferation," Paul Brannan of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security said.


A tough line may also add pressure on Iran, diplomats said. A second report by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano leaked on Tuesday said the agency had received new information about possible illicit military dimensions to Iran's nuclear activities. Since mid-2008, Syria has refused to allow UN nuclear inspectors to revisit the site known as Dair Alzour, which US intelligence reports said was a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor intended to produce plutonium for atomic bombs.

Syria says it was a military, non-nuclear complex before Israeli warplanes wrecked it in 2007. But that assertion was rejected in the IAEA's latest report on Syria, which cited satellite imagery, Syrian procurement efforts and analysis of samples gathered at a one-off inspector visit in 2008.

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