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Syria Won't Allow Tougher Nuclear Inspections Regime

(Jan. 31) -Syrian President Bashar Assad, shown last month, said Damascus would not sign onto a protocol that would give U.N. monitors greater latitude in examining Syrian nuclear facilities for possible evidence of weapons work (Miguel Medina/Getty Images). (Jan. 31) -Syrian President Bashar Assad, shown last month, said Damascus would not sign onto a protocol that would give U.N. monitors greater latitude in examining Syrian nuclear facilities for possible evidence of weapons work (Miguel Medina/Getty Images).

Syrian President Bashar Assad said his government would not sign the Additional Protocol to its International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement, which would allow for more intrusive monitoring of the nation's nuclear operations, Reuters reported today (see GSN, Dec. 6, 2010).

The U.N. nuclear watchdog for years has expressed frustration about lack of access for its investigation of Syria in the wake of a 2007 Israeli airstrike that destroyed a suspected unfinished reactor facility in the Middle Eastern state.

The agency in November indicated Damascus has continued to reject requests to visit the Dair Alzour site and other locations. Monitors were barred from the area after a June 2008 visit turned up traces of anthropogenic natural uranium. Syria has rejected accusations it has engaged in illicit atomic activities.

"This time they asked Syria to sign the Additional Protocol -- that they can come any time," Assad said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

"No, we are not going to sign. ... Nobody will accept to sign it. This is something about sovereignty -- to come any time to check anything under the title of checking nuclear activities, you can check anything," he said.

"We have many secret things like any other country and nobody will allow them (to be searched)," Assad added. Allowing U.N. monitors full access "will definitely be misused," he said.

Damascus demonstrated its transparency by signing off on the June 2008 examination, according to Assad. He asserted that the bombed site was publicly identified as a nuclear plant only months after the attack and wondered why radioactive materials would be located at a facility that had not been completed.

"It is clear to everyone that it was not nuclear, but the question is: why they waited for eight months (before saying it was) ?" Assad said.

The United States has urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to look at using in Syria its authority to conduct a "special inspection" of member nations (see GSN, Dec. 3, 2010). That, however, is unlikely to occur given the increasingly tense standoff over the contested nuclear program in nearby Iran, diplomats say (Reuters, Jan. 31).

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Syria

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