Friday, November 21, 2008

Syria might want to stay an outlaw after all

New efforts to discourage a U.N. agency from investigating allegations that Syria was building a nuclear reactor at a site bombed by Israel demonstrate Damascus' ultimate refusal to conform to international standards of behavior. Syria refused Friday to permit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to revisit the site of the bombing at Al-Kibar, according to the Reuters international news service. Instead, Syria's nuclear energy chief, Ibrahim Othman, attacked the findings of Wednesday's IAEA report that said the bombed structure had similarities to a reactor and said inspectors found large amounts of uranium particles in the area in June. The IAEA report also said Syria had refused to provide documentation requested by the agency and ignored requests to visit three other military sites believed to hold evidence linked to Al-Kibar. "What they are now saying about uranium particles -- collecting three particles from the desert is not enough to say there was a reactor there at all," Othman told reporters after an IAEA meeting. I think to follow up there should be a good reason to say there is something there. In our opinion, this file should be closed." Syria has one declared atomic facility, an old research reactor. The United States saw the report differently, which could endanger recent efforts by Syria to normalize relations with the West. "The report reinforces the assessment of my government that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor in its eastern desert and thereby violating its IAEA (non-proliferation) safeguards obligations," said Gregory Schulte, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, according to Reuters. Diplomats said the United States and some allies were now considering blocking a Syrian request for technical assistance in building a nuclear power plant. Washington also might also seek a resolution demanding Syrian cooperation, they said.

No comments: