News / Middle East

UN Atomic Watchdog Chief Targets Syria

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano from Japan, speaks during a news conference after the first meeting of the IAEA's board of governors at the International Center, in Vienna, Austria,  June 6, 2011
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Yukiya Amano from Japan, speaks during a news conference after the first meeting of the IAEA's board of governors at the International Center, in Vienna, Austria, June 6, 2011
Lisa Bryant

The head of the United Nations atomic agency suggests Syria
may be covering up its nuclear activities. The agency head also
criticized Iran over its alleged nuclear program at the start of a key
weeklong meeting in Vienna.

International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Yukiya Amano said
Monday the agency wants concrete results from Damascus on what the
IAEA believes may have been a secret attempts to build a nuclear power
plant.

"The Syrian government was given ample time to cooperate fully
concerning the Dair Alzour site and did not do so,"he said. "Nevertheless, we
have obtained enough information to draw a conclusion."

The IAEA believes Damascus very likely had been building a nuclear
reactor in a remote area in northeastern Syria. The site was was bombed
by Israel in 2007. Syria claims it was building a military facility.

Made at the start of a week-long board of governors meeting in Vienna,
Amano's remarks appear to fuel a push by the United States and several
other western nations to have Syria sanctioned by the United Nations
Security Council. That push comes as Damascus is already under fire by
the international community over its brutal crackdown on anti-government
protests.

The 35-nation IAEA board meeting will also tackle another thorny issue
- Iran's nuclear program. Amano had strong remarks concerning Tehran
as well.

"Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the agency
to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear
material and activities in Iran and therefore to conclude that all
nuclear material is in peaceful activities," said Amano.

Iran claims its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes. Many
world powers fear Tehran is trying to build a nuclear bomb. Efforts by
IAEA members to get Iran to be more forthcoming have stalled. Chatham
House analyst Malcolm Grimston doubts there will be progress anytime
soon.

"It's been a game of cat and mouse with Iran,"he said. "They seem to play
brinksmanship and then back off at the last moment and then start up
again. And I think that's something we're going to see for an awful long
time as yet."

Board members will also discuss nuclear safety this week in the wake of
Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant accident.

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