Syria Asks Atomic Investigators to Consider "Delicate Situation" in Probe

Syrian government army soldiers stand behind sandbags in a Damascus suburb last month. Syria asked for consideration of its "delicate situation" following an International Atomic Energy Agency request for cooperation in the investigation of the country's suspected illicit nuclear activities (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman).
Syrian government army soldiers stand behind sandbags in a Damascus suburb last month. Syria asked for consideration of its "delicate situation" following an International Atomic Energy Agency request for cooperation in the investigation of the country's suspected illicit nuclear activities (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman).

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano on Monday said Syria had requested consideration of its "delicate situation" in reply to calls for assistance in a U.N. probe aimed at addressing longtime concerns that the Persian Gulf state has pursued undeclared atomic operations, Reuters reported (see GSN, Nov. 16, 2011).

The Syrian government appeared to be referring to its violent suppression of a domestic political insurgency, according to Reuters. United Nations figures indicate there have been more than 7,500 deaths during the nearly yearlong opposition movement.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog probe has achieved no advancements in its probe into Syrian nuclear efforts, Amano said. The agency for years has sought to investigate intelligence indications that the Dair Alzour facility housed a reactor being built with North Korean help and potentially intended to produce weapon-usable plutonium. A 2007 Israeli airstrike destroyed the site, which Damascus says was a military installation with no nuclear component (see GSN, Oct. 31, 2011).

The agency last May said the destroyed installation had "very likely" housed a secret nuclear reactor, but Syria has rejected allegations that the site had any atomic function.

In Syria's Feb. 20 response to a November request by Amano for answers to his organization's questions, the nation "asked for understanding of 'the difficult circumstances and the delicate situation that Syria is passing through,'" the U.N. nuclear chief said in written remarks intended for delivery to a private gathering of the 35-nation IAEA governing board.

"The letter pledged that Syria would continue to cooperate with the agency to resolve outstanding issues," Amano said.

"The agency continues to seek full access to other locations which the agency believes are functionally related to the [Dair Alzour] site," he added. "I urge Syria to cooperate fully with the agency in connection with unresolved issues related to the Dair Alzour site and other locations" (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, March 5).

March 5, 2012
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International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano on Monday said Syria had requested consideration of its "delicate situation" in reply to calls for assistance in a U.N. probe aimed at addressing longtime concerns that the Persian Gulf state has pursued undeclared atomic operations, Reuters reported.

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