Syria ‘pursued 2 routes to nuclear weapons’

UN's International Atomic Energy Agency found a previously unknown nuclear facility in Syria’s northeast, according to The Associated Press report.

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November 2, 2011 01:25
2 minute read.
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Syrian flag 311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

 
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Syria likely pursued two separate paths to nuclear weapons involving uranium enrichment and plutonium, an armament expert said on Tuesday, following a report on a newly uncovered Syrian nuclear facility.

According to a report by The Associated Press, officials from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency found the previously unknown site in Syria’s northeast – an area currently experiencing major unrest against President Bashar Assad’s regime.

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“It’s been coming out slowly that all determined nuclear proliferators are going down both routes – uranium and plutonium,” said Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Iran and North Korea have both gone down the uranium and plutonium routes, Landau noted, adding that the two states were likely working with Syria to develop nuclear capabilities.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the nuclear program in Syria would have these elements, especially because there is some kind of triangular relationship that involves Iran, North Korea and Syria... If two parts of the relationship, Iran and North Korea, are working on both routes, the third part is probably doing the same,” Landau added.

The newly uncovered site is similar to a nuclear facility that was planned for Libya by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was also found to be in communication with a Syrian official, according to The Associated Press report.

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The site was apparently used to attempt uranium-enrichment in the late 1990s, Channel 2 added, saying that the attempts were eventually abandoned in favor of the Al-Kibar plutonium-production plant, built with the assistance of North Korea, and reportedly bombed by fighter jets in 2007.

Landau noted that the IAEA encourages states to come forward with intelligence on clandestine nuclear programs, but said that it did not have the tools to properly enforce violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Syria signed in the 1970s.

“The IAEA assumes that states are complying. It’s not in their mandate to start pressing states,” Landau said. IAEA officials were last in Syria in the summer of 2008, when they found suspicious particles, and have since been denied access to Syria by the Assad regime.

“Although this site is apparently old, it’s clear that if he could, Assad would attempt to obtain nuclear capabilities,” said Prof. Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from Tel Aviv University’s Department of Middle Eastern and African History.

But nuclear weapons will not assist Assad in his attempt to repress internal rebellion, Zisser added.

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