UN to Act Against Interpreter Who Said Syria Has 'Nuclear' Facility

Seven-hour investigation concludes mistake in Arabic-French-English translation was unintential.

The United Nations said an interpreter responsible for an erroneous report that Syria has a nuclear facility has been reprimanded and the organization has apologized to Syria's UN Mission.

Earlier this week, Syria denied that one of its representatives told the UN General Assembly's committee that deals with disarmament on Tuesday that Israel had attacked a Syrian nuclear facility. It said the representative was misquoted, demanded a correction, and insisted that such facilities do not exist in Syria.

After more than seven hours of investigation Wednesday, UN officials agreed the Syrian delegate was misquoted. "There was no use of the word nuclear," concluded UN associate spokesman Farhan Haq.

The unidentified Syrian representative spoke in Arabic and the interpreter who worked from Arabic into French was fairly accurate, but the problem occurred when an interpreter translated the statement into English from French, Haq said.

"Action will be taken against that freelance interpreter to the fullest extent of the UN rules and regulations," Haq said on Thursday, refusing to comment on what the action might be.

'The interpreter who was responsible for the unfortunate mistake has been given a note of reprimand. While it was indeed unfortunate, mistakes can occur, as in any other area of work," Haq added Friday. "The Interpretation Service maintains high standards, and mistakes of this nature occur very rarely," he said.

Haq also said an apology has been given to the Syrian Mission regarding the Tuesday interpretation error and accepted by them as an unintended mistake. The mistake made headlines in the Middle East and heightened concerns over Damascus' nuclear ambitions. Those ambitions were under scrutiny following a Sept. 6 Israeli air strike on an unknown target in northeastern Syria near the border with Turkey.

Widespread reports say it may have been a nascent nuclear facility, a claim Syria has denied.

According to the corrected text, the Syrian representative said Israel was the "fourth largest exporter of lethal weapons in the world ... (and) violates the airspace of sovereign states and carries out military aggression against them, like what happened on Sept. 6 against my country."