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IAEA Approves Nuclear Aid for Syria

The International Atomic Energy Agency has decided to grant nuclear aid to Syria, despite Western concerns that Damascus has pursued a covert nuclear program that could be used to make weapons.

Diplomats say IAEA board members meeting in Vienna Wednesday approved Syria's request for the agency to help study the feasibility of a nuclear power plant.

They say the United States, Canada and Australia joined a consensus supporting Syria's request, after those countries led Western opposition to the project.

Media reports say the text of the compromise calls for keeping the project under close scrutiny to make sure it is not diverted for military uses.

Western states have argued it is not appropriate for the IAEA to help Syria while the agency investigates allegations that Damascus carried out secret nuclear activities.

Russia, China and other developing countries have supported the feasibility study for a nuclear power plant.

IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei told board members in Vienna Tuesday there is "no legal basis" to scrap the feasibility study. He said an IAEA investigation into an alleged covert nuclear site in eastern Syria has not yielded clear-cut evidence of guilt or innocence.

Israel's air force bombed the alleged nuclear site last year.

ElBaradei also said there is no risk of Syria abusing IAEA technical assistance for military purposes.

Supporters of the Syrian nuclear study say a decision to scrap it for political reasons would hurt the IAEA's mission of promoting the development of civilian nuclear energy. The $350,000 project would run from 2009 to 2011.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.