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Syria Rules Out Further IAEA Access to Suspected Nuclear Site

Syria on Saturday rejected an International Atomic Energy Agency request to permit further investigation of an alleged nuclear facility bombed by Israel in 2007, Reuters reported (see GSN, Feb. 19).

Syria has only allowed IAEA officials to examine the remains of the Dair Alzour facility on one occasion since the airstrike. Although inspectors uncovered uranium traces during the visit, Damascus denied carrying out any atomic activities at the site.

"We are committed to the nonproliferation agreement between the agency and Syria and we (only) allow inspectors to come according to this agreement. We will not allow anything beyond the agreement because Syria does not have a military nuclear program. Syria is not obliged to open its other sites to inspectors," said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem.

The official did not discuss the conclusions of the U.N. nuclear watchdog's latest Syria safeguards report, which for the first time offers support to the U.S. view that the Dair Alzour site had a military purpose, according to Reuters.

Mouallem maintained that Syria's nuclear program had strictly civilian aims.

"Unlike Israel, our program is peaceful," he said. Israel is widely believed to possess a nuclear arsenal (Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Reuters, Feb. 20).

The United States pressed Damascus on Thursday to help resolve IAEA concerns about its nuclear work, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"We remain concerned about Syria's nuclear activity. They have not explained what was happening at the [Dair Alzour] reactor. It's refused to cooperate with the IAEA or account for chemically processed uranium found at two sites," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said (Xinhua News Agency, Feb. 20).

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