Syria: CIA fabricated 'reactor' pictures

Country's envoy to US says story about facility will "implode from within," refuses to reveal site's use.

syrian reactor 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy ISIS)
syrian reactor 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy ISIS)
Syria's ambassador to the United States said Friday that the CIA fabricated pictures allegedly taken inside a secret Syrian nuclear reactor and predicted that in coming weeks the US story about the site would "implode from within." "The photos presented to me yesterday were ludicrous, laughable," Ambassador Imad Moustapha told reporters at his Washington residence. He refused to say what the building in the remote eastern desert of Syria was used for before IAF jets bombed it in September 2007. Play video below to see the images. Senior US intelligence officials said Thursday they believe it was a secret nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium, which can be used to make high-yield nuclear weapons. They alleged that North Korea aided in the design, construction and outfitting of the building. Syria bulldozed the building's ruins a month after it was bombed and constructed a new, larger building in its place, leaving little or no evidence of what had been on the site. Moustapha would not explain the purpose of the new building. But he said the lack of military checkpoints, air defenses or barbed wire fences around either building should show that it was not a sensitive facility. So far, Syria has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the area. Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari, pledged on Friday to cooperate with the IAEA and suggested that "the main target of the American CIA allegations against Syria is to justify the Israeli attack against the Syrian side." In a message to employees, CIA Director Michael Hayden praised the agency's "outstanding" work, calling it "a case study in rigorous analytic tradecraft, skillful human and technical collection." But some outside nuclear experts were questioning some of the CIA's analysis, though not disputing its conclusions. David Albright, president of the nonprofit Institute for Science and International Security, analyzed commercial satellite imagery of the bombed facility last fall and surmised then it was a nuclear reactor. He questioned the intelligence agencies' conclusion that the reactor was within months or weeks of completion. "It's not clear-cut it was ready to turn on," Albright said. He also took issue with the Bush administration's assertion that the reactor was solely intended to support a nuclear weapons program. Officials said Thursday the reactor was ill-suited for electrical generation, lacking distribution wires or substations, and did not bear the hallmarks of a research reactor. They concluded the plutonium was therefore meant for weapons but acknowledged they had no direct evidence of that.