Syrian, IAEA Officials Confer in Damascus

International Atomic Energy Agency officials met with Syrian government representatives in Damascus on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was not certain if the sides had moved closer toward addressing persistent concerns that the Middle Eastern state has operated an illicit nuclear program, Reuters reported (see GSN, Oct. 21).

The U.N. nuclear watchdog indicated it would describe the results of the talks to its 35-nation governing board, which is due to convene a two-day meeting on Nov. 17. The Vienna, Austria-based organization did not elaborate.

This week's visit to Damascus by IAEA safeguards chief Herman Nackaerts appeared unlikely to yield any significant progress, Western envoys said previously. The U.N. agency for years has sought to investigate intelligence indications that Syria's Dair Alzour facility housed a reactor being built with North Korean help and potentially intended to produce weapon-usable plutonium. Israel in 2007 bombed the site, which Damascus says was a military installation with no nuclear component.

Syria, which maintains its atomic activities are strictly peaceful, has rejected multiple IAEA requests for return visits to Dair Alzour after inspectors found traces of anthropogenic natural uranium during a June 2008 inspection of the site.

The Dair Alzour installation is not the only source of concern, "hence the need to address all nuclear material and activities in Syria -- such as foreign involvement in Syria's nuclear program," former IAEA safeguards chief Olli Heinonen said (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, Oct. 27).

October 28, 2011
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International Atomic Energy Agency officials met with Syrian government representatives in Damascus on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was not certain if the sides had moved closer toward addressing persistent concerns that the Middle Eastern state has operated an illicit nuclear program, Reuters reported (see GSN, Oct. 21).

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