Joined: 09 Sep 2006
|Posted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:59 pm Post subject: Syria declares its military sites off-limits to IAEA inspect
|Syria declares its military sites off-limits to IAEA inspectors
~Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 3, 2008
Syria pledged Friday to cooperate with a UN probe of allegations it had a
hidden nuclear program that could be harnessed to make weapons but said its
military sites would remain off limits - a condition that could hamstring
The International Atomic Energy Agency - the UN nuclear monitor - already
visited Syria in June to examine a site bombed last year by Israel. The US
says the site was a nearly finished plutonium-producing reactor.
But diplomats familiar with the issue say requests for further visits that
would include on-site inspections of three other locations allegedly linked
to the reactor were turned down by Syria after the initial trip. Then - as
on Friday - Syria argued that to allow access would compromise the country's
"We would like to underline that my government is cooperating with the
agency in full transparency," Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria's nuclear
program, told a 145-nation IAEA meeting. "However, this cooperation will not
be in any way at the expense of disclosing our military sites or causing a
threat to our national security."
Any refusal by Syria to permit visits to the suspected sites could spell the
end of the IAEA's investigation. Initial results of environmental samples
taken at the bombed site by IAEA experts have shown no nuclear link. But
that was anticipated - US intelligence said the Syrians had not yet
introduced radioactive material into the facility and the Damascus spent
months cleaning up the site and encasing it in concrete before allowing the
IAEA to visit.
Othman on Friday also challenged Israel to throw open its nuclear facilities
to the IAEA. Arab nations repeatedly make that demand of Israel - which is
widely believed to have nuclear arms but has a "no comment" policy on the
The meeting - the IAEA's general conference - is expected to formally touch
on the issue before it ends Saturday, likely by voting on two resolutions
critical of Israel for refusing to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
and open its program to IAEA inspection.
Another volatile topic - Syria's bid for a seat on the decision-making board
of the IAEA - was defused Friday, when Syria decided to withdraw and cede
the position to Afghanistan, the US-backed candidate from the Middle East
South Asian region.
Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate to the meeting, said the
decision was made to avoid a divisive vote at the meeting, which normally
reaches decisions by consensus. But with any vote to be decided by secret
ballot, some participants at the meeting suggested they Syrians feared they
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