syria nuclear reactor site 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy ISIS)
VIENNA - UN inspectors may say in an upcoming report that a Syrian desert site bombed to rubble in 2007 was probably a covert nuclear reactor, opening the way for the UN Security Council to take up the case, diplomats said.
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Previous International Atomic Energy Agency reports have said there are indications nuclear activity may have taken place at the Dair Alzour site, but the next report could use more pointed wording, according to Vienna-based diplomats.
The IAEA declined to comment about the report, which will be presented to its 35-nation governing board in June.
The board has the power to refer countries to the Security Council if
they are judged to have broken IAEA rules based on the global
Non-Proliferation Treaty that ban diversions of nuclear technology to
Diplomats said it was not clear whether a Security Council referral
would come at the June board meeting in Vienna and that it could take
much longer for possible action.
Syria has denied the IAEA follow-up access to the site that US
intelligence reports say was a nascent plutonium-producing reactor
designed by North Korea and meant to yield bomb fuel.
Israeli warplanes wrecked the site in September 2007 and Syria has
allowed IAEA investigators to visit it only once, in June 2008,
stonewalling all further requests for access. Syria, an ally of Iran,
denies ever having a nuclear weapons program.
The board referred Iran to the Security Council in 2006 over its failure
to clarify suspicions of illicit nuclear weaponization work. Tehran has
denied seeking atom bombs but has refused to curb uranium enrichment
and has been hit with an escalating series of Security Council
"There is a discussion in the agency about whether to make a final
evaluation on Syria about what it constructed at Dair Alzour," one
diplomat accredited to the IAEA said.
If there is an assessment, it is possible the IAEA will say bin the
report there is a "high degree of confidence" the site was a nuclear
reactor or something similar, the diplomat said.
Diplomats said the IAEA was unlikely to make a definitive, final
assessment due to a lack of further access to the site. They also said
the report had not been drafted but that discussions were taking place.
"We're hearing that is what the report might say," another diplomat
said. A third said that pressure was building on Syria and that the IAEA
board could not allow Damascus to continue stalling the agency's
Syria says the agency does not need to visit the site again and argues
that the Vienna-based IAEA should focus on Israel instead because of its
undeclared nuclear arsenal.
Damascus has suggested the uranium traces uncovered at the site after
the one-off IAEA visit came with Israeli munitions used in the attack.
The agency has dismissed this as unlikely.