Syria refutes UN nuclear chief's reactor claim

Syria’s United Nations (UN) ambassador on Wednesday refuted a claim by the head of the UN nuclear agency that a building destroyed by Israeli warplanes in the Syrian desert in 2007 was very likely the covert site of a nuclear reactor.

Bashar Ja’afari told the UN general assembly that most findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under the current director general, Yukiya Amano, relied on imagery and analysis presented by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

He said this made Syria question the credibility of the information and corroborating documents since the United States “pursues a political agenda inimical to the interests of my country”.

Ja’afari said Amano’s information “lacked credibility” and ran counter to previous IAEA assessments.

He said Amano’s predecessor as IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, had not reached a definitive conclusion about the bombed site, and he asked why the US refused to provide the IAEA with satellite photos of the bombed area for six weeks after the Israeli attack.

Amano told the general assembly in his second annual report on Tuesday that “in the case of Syria, the agency recently came to the conclusion that it is very likely that a building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site in 2007 was a nuclear reactor which should been declared to the agency”.

He said the IAEA board referred Syria to the UN Security Council in June for violating its safeguard agreements, citing Syria’s undeclared construction of a covert nuclear reactor and refusal to supply information.

The US first asserted more than three years ago that the bombed target was a nuclear reactor but Syria has repeatedly denied allegations of any covert nuclear activity or interest in developing nuclear arms, saying the building was a non-nuclear military site.

Ja’afari said that Syria was the sponsor of a UN Security Council resolution, which was never put to a vote, calling for the Middle East to be a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

He accused “Western states” of continuing to supply Israel with nuclear technology, materials “and their means of delivery” and criticised Amano for not raising Israel’s nuclear programme in his report. Israel has never admitted possessing nuclear weapons, pursuing an official policy of “ambiguity”.

Syria allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the bombed site in 2008 but it has refused to allow nuclear inspectors new access. This has heightened suspicions that Syria has something to hide, along with its decision to level the destroyed structure and later build over it.—Sapa-AP

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