Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:05 pm (KSA) 09:05 am (GMT)

IAEA team set to visit Syrian nuclear sites

U.S. intelligence officials photo of a Syrian nuclear reactor
U.S. intelligence officials photo of a Syrian nuclear reactor

A U.N. nuclear watchdog team will visit Syria on June 22-24 to pursue an investigation into U.S. intelligence alleging that Damascus secretly built an atomic reactor, the agency's chief said.

"It has now been agreed that an agency team will visit Syria. I look forward to Syria's full cooperation in this matter," IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei told a meeting of the agency's 35-nation board of governors.

The alleged reactor site was destroyed in an Israeli air raid last September and Washington handed over intelligence to the International Atomic Energy Agency in April for verification purposes.

ElBaradei did not say whether Syria would allow inspectors to examine the al-Kibar site bombed by Israel in the country's remote northeast desert.

On May 7 he had said he hoped to be able to shed light "in the next few weeks" on whether the Syrian facility was a nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the IAEA under Damascus's nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations.

Syria has denied any covert nuclear arms project and said that Israel's target was only a disused military building that had no nuclear link.

Damascus, has only declared a nuclear facility in an old research reactor under IAEA inspection.

Analysts, citing satellite photos, say Syria has razed the site in the meantime, possibly to erase evidence.

ElBaradei, in his speech, again chided the U.S. for waiting until last month to share its intelligence.

"It is deeply regrettable that information concerning this installation was not provided to the agency in a timely manner and that force was resorted to unilaterally before the agency was given an opportunity to establish the facts," he said.

"Nonetheless, I should emphasize that Syria, like all states with comprehensive (nuclear) safeguards agreements, has an obligation to report the planning and construction of any nuclear facility to the agency," he said.

"We are therefore treating this information with the seriousness it deserves and have been in discussions with the Syrian authorities ... to verify, to the extent possible at this stage, the veracity of the information available."

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