UN Reluctant to Push Syria on Nuclear Inspections

IAEA focused on seeking cooperation for now, says watchdog chief Yukiya Amano.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

The UN nuclear agency chief signaled a reluctance on Tuesday to demand Syria allow a short notice inspection of a desert site where secret nuclear work may have taken place despite growing international pressure.

It has been more than two years since Syria allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the Dair Alzour site, which was bombed to rubble by Israel in 2007.

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano of JapanCredit: AP

U.S. intelligence reports have said it was a nascent North Korean-designed reactor geared to produce material for a nuclear bomb. Syria, an ally of Iran that is under IAEA
scrutiny over its uranium enrichment drive, denies hiding nuclear work from inspectors.

The United States has suggested the IAEA could invoke its "special inspection" mechanism to give it the authority to look anywhere in Syria on short notice.

Asked in New York why the Vienna-based U.N. agency was reluctant to request a special inspection in Syria, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said there was no longer a site to investigate.

"If the facility is there, it's easy to go and look and confirm if it is a reactor or not," he told reporters at the Council on Foreign Relations. "But the facility is gone."

While Amano said he would be open to seeking a special inspection in the future, he said he had not strengthened his position on Syria and that, for now, the IAEA was focused on seeking cooperation with the Middle Eastern country.

"There is talk, there is cooperation. On Dair Alzour, not yet, but why don't we hope?" Amano said.

Syria has allowed inspectors to visit an old research reactor in Damascus where they have been checking whether there is a link with Dair Alzour after discovering unexplained particles of processed uranium at both sites.

The IAEA last resorted to requesting a special inspection in 1993 in North Korea, which still withheld access and later developed nuclear bomb capacity in secret.

Syria is seen as unlikely to permit a special inspection.

Diplomats and analysts believe the IAEA will refrain from escalating the dispute as tensions rise with Iran, which the West suspects of seeking nuclear weapons.

If Syria were to reject a request for a special inspection, the 35-nation IAEA board could vote to refer the issue to the UN Security Council, as it did with Iran's dossier four years
ago. The board next convenes in early December.



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


The Orion nebula, photographed in 2009 by the Spitzer Telescope.

What if the Big Bang Never Actually Happened?

Relatives mourn during the funeral of four teenage Palestinians from the Nijm family killed by an errant rocket in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, August 7.

Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians

בן גוריון

'Strangers in My House': Letters Expelled Palestinian Sent Ben-Gurion in 1948, Revealed


AIPAC vs. American Jews: The Toxic Victories of the 'pro-Israel' Lobby

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic speaks during a press conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May.

‘This Is Crazy’: Israeli Embassy Memo Stirs Political Storm in the Balkans

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza.

Israel Rewards Hamas for Its Restraint During Gaza Op