Last Updated: Fri Apr 29, 2011 20:09 pm (KSA) 17:09 pm (GMT)

IAEA contends Syria covert site was a potential nuclear reactor, but then again it may not have been

Aerial view of the suspected Syrian nuclear site. (File photo)
Aerial view of the suspected Syrian nuclear site. (File photo)

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that a target destroyed by Israeli warplanes in the Syrian Desert in 2007 was a covert site of a future nuclear reactor. The Associated press reported the nuclear watchdog’s head as saying.

Moments later, a spokesman for the IAEA chief said that his boss did not quite say what he said.
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Syria, like its ally Iran, always asserted that it had no atomic secrets, but IAEA’s chief, Yukiya Amano, changed his agency’s previous undecided position on whether the site was fundamentally a nuclear site or not. Now Mr. Amano unequivocally asserted that Syria was indeed building a nuclear reactor.

The IAEA is now apparently allied with the US position. Washington said three years ago that the bombed target was a nuclear reactor.

“The facility that was ... destroyed by Israel was a nuclear reactor under construction,” Mr. Amano told a news conference in response to a question from The Associated Press, repeating to the AP in taped comments afterward: “It was a reactor under construction.”

Suggesting that Mr. Amano had erred in making the public comments, the IAEA later put out a statement that he “did not say that the IAEA had reached the conclusion that the site was definitely a nuclear reactor.”

In a February report, he had said only that features of the bombed structure were “similar to what may be found at nuclear reactor sites.”

The atomic watchdog said that is also trying to investigate other undeclared nuclear activities linked the bombed target, but Damascus has been uncooperative on most counts, citing that the sites are restricted because of their military nature.

It is not the first time for Israel to destroy a suspected nuclear site of a regional country; in 1981 it bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb of Al Arabiya can be reached at: dina.ibrahim@mbc.net)

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