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No Word From Syrian Opposition on Suspected Atomic Plant: IAEA Chief

Syrian anti-government protesters rally on Feb. 15 at Kafr Nabil. The head of the U.N. nuclear agency on Monday said he had not heard from rebels reported to have taken control of an area once believed to house a Syrian nuclear reactor site (AP Photo/Edlib News Network). Syrian anti-government protesters rally on Feb. 15 at Kafr Nabil. The head of the U.N. nuclear agency on Monday said he had not heard from rebels reported to have taken control of an area once believed to house a Syrian nuclear reactor site (AP Photo/Edlib News Network).

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday noted he had not heard from Syrian opposition fighters said to have taken control of the former location of an alleged nuclear reactor facility, Reuters reported.

The Assad government has denied reports that the plant destroyed in a 2007 Israeli airstrike contained an unfinished reactor possibly aimed at producing nuclear weapon-usable plutonium. The U.N. nuclear watchdog has not been allowed to inspect the site after a single trip in 2008, and has unsuccessfully sought data on three other facilities. The remains of the facility were razed years ago.

Rebel forces seeking to unseat President Bashar Assad were reported to have taken over the area in late February.

"Certainly we are aware of the report on (the) rebel group's offer to invite us to the site of Dair Alzour but we are not aware of any communication to that effect," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said to reporters during this week's meeting of the agency's 35-nation governing board.

"I renew my call to Syria to fully cooperate with us in connection with unresolved issued related to the Dair Alzour site and other locations," Amano said in his address to delegates earlier on Monday.

In 2007, President Bush's top diplomat thwarted a push by then-Vice President Dick Cheney to initiate a U.S. strike against the Syrian facility, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Friday. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice advocated referring suspicions about the complex to the United Nations, Cheney said in a biographical film now awaiting release.

"I thought (destroying the reactor) would reassert the kind of authority and influence we had back in '03 when we took down Saddam Hussein and eliminated Iraq as a potential source of WMD," Cheney said. "Condi was on the wrong side of all those issues."

Rice, though, told the magazine that "the situation turned out exactly how it should have."

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