Syria: Elbaradei's comments point to US, Israeli lies

Statement comes after talks Iranian foreign minister in Damascus.

syrian fm 224 ap (photo credit: AP)
syrian fm 224 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Syria's foreign minister on Monday said the head of the UN nuclear watchdog's criticism of Israel and the US over an IDF air strike of a site that is allegedly part of a purported nuclear program was proof of the "lies" leveled against Damascus. Speaking at a news conference in Damascus after talks with the Iranian foreign minister, Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem condemned the airstrike as a "flagrant aggression" and said the failure of the international community to condemn the Sept. 6 air strike deep inside Syria "encourages the aggressor." His comments come a day after International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, speaking on CNN, criticized Israel and the US for failing to provide the IAEA with intelligence about Syria's purported nuclear program. He said it was "distressing" that the UN agency did not received any information about the alleged Syrian program until after the air strike. IAF warplanes struck deep inside Syria on Sept. 6, but the raid has been enveloped in secrecy. Israel has not officially commented on it or acknowledged carrying it out. Syrian President Bashar Assad has said the attack targeted an unused military building, and Damascus has denied developing a nuclear program and repeatedly rejected the media reports about a clandestine nuclear program. Commercial satellite images by a Washington think-tank though have indicated a site that resembles a North Korean-style structure for a nuclear reactor might have been destroyed, then cleared by the Syrians. A US official has said the attack may have targeted a weapons cache. At the news conference, al-Moallem said "rumors and articles" have spread in an attempt to justify the Israeli raid. "They began by saying the raid targeted a convoy carrying weapons for Hizbullah. Then they said it was a long-range missile base, then a military position, then a nuclear facility. They have become confused about justifying this raid. But when this condemnation comes from Mr. Elbaradei it confirms that all such rumors were lies," he said. Elbaradei told CNN that if Syria was working on a nuclear program "then we'd obviously be able to draw the consequences. But today I don't know where to go. I didn't get any information." The IAEA chief said he had contacted the Syrians, who had told him the target was "a military facility, has nothing to do with nuclear." He said neither the Israelis nor the Americans have provided "any evidence" to back up the claim that the target was a North Korean modeled nuclear reactor. Elbaradei added that the agency was still investigating commercial satellite photos of the site before and after it was attacked.