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Syria Promises to Cooperate With IAEA


Syria's U.N. envoy says his country will continue to cooperate with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, as he again dismissed U.S. allegations that North Korea was helping Syria build a secret nuclear reactor. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said Friday Syria has no reason to stop cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

"Syria has nothing to hide," he said. "The IAEA chief is there to witness what we are saying is absolutely true. So we are not afraid of this cooperation."

On Friday, ElBaradei said his agency would investigate U.S. allegations that North Korea was helping Syria build a secret nuclear reactor capable of producing plutonium. Washington says the reactor was within weeks or months of being functional when Israel bombed it on September 6.

But the IAEA chief also criticized Washington for not bringing this information to his agency's attention sooner. ElBaradei criticized Israel as well, for what he called its "unilateral use of force" in bombing the Syrian facility, saying that action undermined the verification process.

Syria, a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, said at the time of the strike that the target was a conventional military facility.

The United States released photographs Thursday to support its allegations, saying it had waited seven months because of concerns Syria could retaliate against Israel and cause a larger war in the region.

Washington says the photographs were taken inside the Syrian reactor before the Israeli air strike. They also included a photograph of a top Syrian official with the manager of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear plant, apparently in Syria. Ambassador Ja'afari dismissed the pictures as "false" and "prefabricated".

"I could show you many pictures between Syrian officials and American officials," he said. "Does that mean we are working with the Americans for building something in Syria? We should be very careful and cautious with regard to these kinds of allegations. Anyone could fabricate anything these days."

Jaafari said the U.S. allegations were intended "to justify the Israeli attack" on the Syrian site, and might also be linked to in-fighting between hardliners and moderates within the Bush administration over its nuclear deal with North Korea.

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