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Report Plays Down Syrian Site's Resemblance to Uranium Facility

A Syrian facility built in the early 1980s had always been intended for textile processing, despite its resemblance to a uranium enrichment site blueprint provided to Libya's ousted Qadhafi regime, the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted a German businessman reportedly involved in its construction as saying (see GSN, Nov. 1).

The International Atomic Energy Agency has methodically scrutinized satellite photographs of Syria's al-Hasakah facility, which appears significantly close in layout to plans for a uranium enrichment site obtained in a Swiss probe of three accused participants in the nuclear smuggling ring once run by former top Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan (see GSN, April 27).

Jürgen Grobe, the chief executive officer of a German textile firm, described himself to Sueddeutsche Zeitung as the head engineer and project leader for the al-Hasakah site's construction, and he described the functions of the textile mill's various components.

A May 1984 overhead image of the site confirms it was constructed between 1981 and 1984, Jeffrey Lewis, an analyst with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, wrote last week in the Arms Control Wonk blog. Khan's earliest recorded contact with a non-Pakistani client took place in 1984, years after the Syrian site's construction began, the expert said.

Every significant manufacturer of cloth-making machinery appears to have supplied systems for the Syrian site, according to the German newspaper, which refers to photographs included among the facility's online publicity materials.

A source with a firm located near the al-Hasakah facility said the site was "100 percent a spinning mill" when he was employed at the site, according to the German report cited by Arms Control Wonk. Records indicate the source's firm moved textile apparatus into the site in 2003 (Jeffrey Lewis, Arms Control Wonk, Nov. 4).

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GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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