Schulte: Syria may have more nuke sites

Former US IAEA envoy slams ElBaradei's handling of bombed reactor case; says Iran "trying to buy time."

Soltanieh 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Soltanieh 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Syria may be operating more nuclear sites, apart from the reactor at Deir Azour which was bombed by Israel on September 6, 2007 in what came to be known as Operation Orchard, former US envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Gregory Schulte told Channel 10 Thursday evening. "I think there were other activities that gave us concern, that gave the IAEA concern… IAEA inspectors actually asked to go to a number of other sites, and the Syrians wouldn't let them go there; they claimed they were military sites. They claimed the uranium particles that the inspectors found at the destroyed reactor came from Israeli bombs," Schulte said. In the past, the Syrian accusation was brushed aside both by the IAEA and Israel, as the uranium used to strengthen the metal of shells is of a different type than the uranium used in producing nuclear energy. Schulte went on to criticize the conduct of Mohammed ElBaradei, the Egyptian-born outgoing IAEA chief who has been accused by Israel many times of being biased. "I tell you Mohammed ElBaradei was not happy ... he was mad at Israel, he was mad at the United States; he didn't express any discontent about Syria," he said. Schulte added that ElBaradei issued a statement following Operation Orchard, "where he sort of deplored Israel's unilateral action, he deplored the late provision of intelligence which was a direct slap at the United States." Moving on to the issue of Iran's nuclear pursuit, Schulte said the Islamic republic was using a tactic of stalling to the West while continuing to work on its program. "Iran is always trying to buy time," he said. "The question is, can you sort of convince them to stop doing that, convince them that they have to negotiate seriously... so the trick is to convince them that the opportunity to buy time is running out and the need to negotiate seriously." Iran needs to "show a willingness to suspend these activities," he said, referring to enrichment of uranium, a process which can serve to produce electricity but also to build a nuclear weapon, Schulte added. Earlier Thursday, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Teheran's envoy to the IAEA, suggested that any negotiations with Western powers would not address the Islamic republic's nuclear program, according to a report carried by Iran's state-run al-Alam television station cited by Reuters. "Teheran is prepared to have fair and substantive talks about various problems, including the guarantee of access by all countries to nuclear energy and preventing the proliferation of nuclear arms," Soltanieh reportedly said. "But these talks do not include Teheran's nuclear program and legal activities in this connection," he was quoted as saying. His comments came just a day after Iran presented world powers with a proposal for new talks. Teheran is faced with a US threat of harsher new sanctions over its nuclear program if it fails to begin negotiations in earnest by the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the end of September. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ruled out negotiations over uranium enrichment, the UN's central concern regarding his country's nuclear program. AP contributed to this report