Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Syrian Reactor Finding Stands After Meeting: Amano
A meeting earlier this month between Syrian representatives and International Atomic Energy Agency specialists yielded no evidence to alter the agency's determination that the Middle Eastern nation had attempted to construct a clandestine nuclear reactor, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said on Friday (see GSN, July 15).
"There was nothing concluded" from the discussion, which resulted from Syria's statement in May that it was willing to fully meet agency demands, Amano told the Associated Press (see GSN, May 31).
It is now Syria's responsibility to make a case against the U.N. nuclear watchdog's conclusion that the Dair Alzour facility -- destroyed in a 2007 Israeli airstrike -- had "very likely" housed a largely complete reactor intended to produce weapon-usable plutonium, Amano said. Damascus has denied having an illicit nuclear program, but has rejected multiple IAEA requests for return visits to Dair Alzour since inspectors found traces of anthropogenic natural uranium during a June 2008 inspection of the site.
"We have done our jobs," Amano said. "If there is further cooperation it is very nice. If not, ... the conclusion is there."
Addressing the possibility that this month's talks bogged down due in part to political unrest within Syria, the IAEA chief said the delegates from Damascus "didn't have an explanation to that effect, but our understanding is that they were too busy."
The U.N. nuclear watchdog remains open to Syria's input on the investigation of the purported nuclear site, but "if they don't prove otherwise, we continue to be very confident with our conclusion," he said.
The assessment by the Vienna, Austria-based agency has prompted questions over whether Damascus breached its arms control commitments, a number of Western envoys said following a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting held on July 14 to address the analysis.
The 35-nation IAEA governing board referred the matter to the Security Council on June 9, laying the groundwork for potential punitive action against Damascus. The referral measure refers to "serious concern" about "Syria's lack of cooperation with the IAEA director general's repeated requests for access to additional information and locations as well as Syria's refusal to engage substantively with the agency on the nature of the Dair Alzour site."
Security Council veto holders China and Russia have played down the importance of the matter given that the suspected reactor site was destroyed. That is likely to reduce the likelihood that the 15-nation body would sanction Syria, according to recent reports (George Jahn, Associated Press/Google News, July 23).
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