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U.S. Questions IAEA Atomic Power Assistance to Syria

The Obama administration on Monday voiced "strong reservations" over the International Atomic Energy Agency's role in an initiative to support the eventual construction of a Syrian atomic energy station, Reuters reported (see GSN, Nov. 9).

The Vienna, Austria-based organization has sought for years to investigate suspicions that Syria's Dair Alzour facility had housed a reactor being built with North Korean help and intended to produce weapon-usable plutonium, according to Reuters (see GSN, Nov. 4). Israel in 2007 bombed the site, which Damascus says was a military installation with no nuclear component.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in May asserted that the destroyed installation had "very likely" housed a secret nuclear reactor. The U.N. nuclear watchdog's 35-nation governing board referred the Syria issue to the U.N. Security Council in June for potential action.

"The United States has strong reservations over the continuation of Syrian ... project SYR/0/020 conducting a technical feasibility study and site selection for a nuclear power plant given Syria's failure to cooperate with the IAEA," Robert Wood, deputy U.S. permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, Austria, told the IAEA Technical Assistance and Cooperation Committee on Monday.

"In principle, it is our view that a state found in non-compliance with their (IAEA) safeguards agreement should have certain [technical cooperation] projects curtailed or suspended," he said during a yearly gathering of the U.N. nuclear watchdog panel. His statement was provided to reporters.

"We strongly urge the (IAEA) Secretariat to monitor the project closely and report to the board as appropriate," he said (Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, Nov. 14)

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