IAEA sees Syria talks for end-October

VIENNA Tue Oct 4, 2011 9:58am EDT

VIENNA (Reuters) - United Nations nuclear inspectors plan to meet Syrian officials this month to try to kickstart a long-stalled probe into a suspected reactor site bombed to rubble by Israel in 2007.

A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based U.N. agency, said on Tuesday that a meeting was scheduled to take place in Damascus on October 24-25.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said last month Syria had offered to cooperate with the agency's investigation into the destroyed Dair Alzour site after years of stonewalling.

Amano said he was hoping to get "full information" about Dair Alzour. The IAEA has also repeatedly asked for information about other sites that may have been linked to it.

U.S. intelligence reports have said that before the Israeli raid Dair Alzour had housed a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor intended to produce plutonium for atomic weaponry.

Syria says it was a non-nuclear military facility, but the IAEA concluded in May that Dair Alzour was "very likely" to have been a nuclear reactor that should have been declared.

Western diplomats have expressed caution about previous offers of cooperation from Damascus.

Some Vienna-based diplomats have suggested that Syria's crackdown on pro-democracy protests could further complicate efforts to get the Arab state to cooperate on the nuclear issue.

In June, the IAEA board of governors voted to report Syria to the U.N. Security Council, rebuking it for failing to cooperate with the agency's efforts to get concrete information on Dair Alzour and other sites. Russia and China opposed the referral, highlighting divisions among the major powers.

Syria denies harboring a nuclear weapons program, as does its main regional ally Iran.

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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