Muallem: I wish Syria had a nuclear program

Syrian FM tells press that if Syria had a secret arms program it wouldn't have allowed IAEA to inspect site.

Syrian reactor 224 (photo credit: Courtesy ISIS)
Syrian reactor 224
(photo credit: Courtesy ISIS)
Syria's foreign minister on Monday repeated his country's denials that a site bombed by Israel last year was a nascent nuclear reactor, but said he wished his country had such a program to counter Israel's nuclear might. UN nuclear inspectors visited the site in northern Syria last week to investigate US allegations that Syria was hiding elements of a potential nuclear arms program. Olli Heinonen, a deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he was satisfied with what was achieved on the four-day trip but that "there is still work that needs to be done" in following up on the claims. Syrian authorities imposed a virtual news blackout on the inspectors' trip, and few details of the visit have surfaced beyond the fact that Syrian authorities allowed the three-man inspecting team to visit the Al Kibar site, which Israeli jets targeted in September. Syria has said the site was a non-nuclear military facility. "As a Syrian citizen, I think that had Syria had such a secret program, it wouldn't have allowed inspectors to visit the site. ... This is logic," Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a joint news conference in Damascus with his Norwegian counterpart, Jonas Gahr Stoere. "But as a citizen, I wish that Syria would have such a program because Israel simply has made strides in manufacturing nuclear weapons," he said. Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa said Wednesday that his country allowed UN inspectors to visit the site to prove that US allegations of a covert Syrian nuclear program were false. Sharaa said, however, that the inspectors from the IAEA, the UN's nuclear monitoring agency, will not be allowed to investigate beyond the Al Kibar site, despite a UN request to visit three other suspect locations. Damascus strongly denies US allegations that it is involved in any nuclear activities, and fears that Washington could use the accusations to rally international pressure against it.