Under IAEA pressure, Syria and Iran point to Israel

VIENNA Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:13am EDT

Related Topics

VIENNA (Reuters) - Western powers pressed Syria to give U.N. inspectors access to the remains of a suspected nuclear site in the desert, but Damascus and its ally Iran said the focus should be on Israel, which bombed it to rubble.

The U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaking during a debate on Syria at its governing board that began on Wednesday, said Washington would back the agency's use of "all tools" at its disposal to advance the probe.

It has been over two years since the IAEA was allowed to inspect the Dair Alzour site, destroyed by Israel in 2007.

U.S. intelligence reports say it was a nascent North Korean-designed atomic reactor geared to produce bomb fuel. Syria, like Iran, denies ever having had an atom bomb program.

In a report last week the IAEA said Syria's refusal to allow inspectors back to the site, where secret nuclear activity may have taken place, was endangering potential evidence.

The IAEA board debate highlighted deep divisions and showed little sign of progress on an issue the West says undermines the agency and risks damaging the non-proliferation regime.

"Unfortunately and with growing concern, information related to Syria's clandestine nuclear activities is deteriorating or has been lost entirely due to Syria's refusal to cooperate," U.S. envoy Glyn Davies said in a statement.

LEAKS AND PARTICLES

Last month, Davies said a "number of countries" were beginning to ask whether it was time to invoke the IAEA's "special inspection" mechanism to give it the authority to look anywhere necessary in Syria at short notice.

"We strongly support the (IAEA) secretariat's use of all tools at its disposal to verify Syria's compliance with its safeguards obligations," he told the closed-door meeting.

The agency last resorted to special inspection powers in 1993 in North Korea, which still withheld access and later developed nuclear bomb capacity in secret.

The European Union voiced concern that "necessary information concerning the Dair Alzour site is deteriorating or at risk of being lost entirely" and urged Syria to cooperate.

Syrian envoy Mohammed Badi Khattab said the agency did not need to go back to Dair Alzour because it already had "ample proof" that it was a non-nuclear military site, diplomats said.

The diplomats said he also cited concerns about leaks of confidential information at the IAEA, a factor which Iran raised earlier this week regarding a probe into its nuclear work.

Khattab confirmed to Reuters he had addressed the "issue of confidentiality" in his statement but gave no details.

Syria has previously suggested that uranium particles discovered by U.N. inspectors at the site came from Israeli weapons used in the attack, and Khattab called on Thursday for the IAEA to investigate the Israeli origin of the material.

His demand was echoed by Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh of Iran, which the West accuses of seeking to develop nuclear arms.

"We are looking forward to receiving the reports of swipe samples from the launcher of (the) missile in Israel... before the source of contamination is cleaned up or destroyed by the Israeli regime," Soltanieh told the 35-nation board.

Arab states, backed by Iran, also want the IAEA to focus attention on Israel's presumed nuclear arsenal. They are expected next week to seek backing for an IAEA assembly resolution calling on Israel to sign an anti-nuclear arms pact.

(editing by Paul Taylor)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
WeaponWatcher wrote:
The IAEA should already know whether or not the uranium contamination found at Dair Alzour came from nuclear reactor fuel or from high density (uranium ballasted) bunker buster warheads dropped by the IAF. IAEA are experts in nuclear fuel material and excluded that option in early safeguards reports in 2008. They reported anthropogenic uranium of natural isotopic ratio. But tightly worded statements did not disclose whether this high temperature insoluble ceramic uranium oxide from high temperature explosions, or low temperature origin compounds as in fuel. I sent IAEA detailed results of uranium contamination found from IAF bomb locations in Lebanon in 2006 by UNEP, IAEA & UK researchers. Some was near, but not, natural U238/235 ratio (139-141) and some was low enriched eoxide ratio 102-116. But IAEA have only excluded Israeli bombs because the material was not depleted uranium. This was an invalid criteria given the data supplied from bombing in Lebanon, and from Afghanistan and Iraq by UK laboratories. Syria cannot risk another inspection unless IAEA publish earlier results in full first with genuine transparency. Further tests are likely to identify both undepleted and low enriched uranium from the weapons used – whether or not the target also had uranium material. Do the US and Israel want the IAEA to publish further evidence of 1000 & 2000lb uranium enhanced warheads supplied to Israel in 2006 e.g. AUP-116 hi-density penetrators used in GBU-109 warheads? So far IAEA has avoided the international repercussions these results could cause. PS swipe tests are not suitable to differentiate natural from undepleted uranium.

Sep 17, 2010 6:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.