Last Updated: Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:27 am (KSA) 07:27 am (GMT)

US lawmakers urge Syria nuclear inspections

The site, known as Dair Alzour, was bombed to pieces by Israel in 2007
The site, known as Dair Alzour, was bombed to pieces by Israel in 2007

United States lawmakers urged President Barack Obama in a letter out Monday to press the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency for stepped-up "special inspections" of suspected Syrian atomic program sites.

"We write urging you to call on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to immediately conduct on-site 'special inspections' in Syria," they wrote, citing "alarmingly inadequate" cooperation by Damascus with the IAEA.

The goal would be to "ensure that Syria has not engaged and is not engaging in undeclared nuclear activities, especially those that could contribute to a nuclear weapons program," the lawmakers said.

They also called for sanctions against any Syrian officials or entities that found to have "received illicit nuclear assistance from North Korea and other proliferators."

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's office made the letter public and said it had been sent on Dec. 2.

Number-two Republican Senator Jon Kyl, Republican Senator John Ensign, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, Democratic Representatives Ed Markey, Ed Royce, and Brad Sherman as well as Republican Representative Jeff Fortenberry signed the letter.

IAEA "special inspections" are a rarely-used tool that allows U.N. inspectors to request more intrusive access to sites.

The U.N. agency has expressed increasing impatience with Syria over gaining access to information and locations connected to an alleged nuclear site, but stopped short thus far of seeking such new inspections.

Damascus is accused of having been in the process of building an undeclared reactor at a remote desert site called Dair Alzour until it was bombed by Israeli planes in September 2007.

The IAEA has been investigating the allegations since 2008 and has already said that the building bore some of the characteristics of a nuclear facility.

U.N. inspectors also detected "significant" traces of man-made uranium at that site, as yet unexplained by Damascus.

In addition, the watchdog has also requested access to three other locations allegedly functionally related to Dair Alzour, but so far to no avail.

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