IAEA diplomats say evidence warrants follow-up nuke probe in Syria
Diplomats in Vienna said Tuesday, Oct. 28, that freshly evaluated soil and air samples provide enough evidence to warrant a follow-up probe by the UN nuclear watchdog at the suspected Syrian nuclear site at El Kibar bombed by Israel in September 2007.
IAEA experts want to revisit the site and also follow up on US, Israeli and other intelligence allegations that North Korea had been helping Syria build a plutonium reactor there.
Damascus has denied running a covert program.
debkafile‘s military sources reported exclusively on Oct. 4 that Syria had resumed its nuclear program at installations scattered across the country and that North Korean nuclear experts were back.
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According to recent American reports, a Syrian military delegation visited Pyongyang to find out whether their arms deals and nuclear collaboration were at risk as a result of Kim Jong-il’s ill health.
Our sources also disclosed that IAEA director Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei and his deputy Dr. Olli Heinonen have been at odds for months over whether the UN watchdog should push ahead with its probe against Syria.
ElBaradai argued there was no evidence to support US and Israel claims that Syria had been building a reactor, but Heinonen, who led an agency inspection in Syria last June differed and wants to go on with the investigation. According to our sources, Heinonen as demanded access to the west bank of the Euphrates River opposite the El Kibar site, where Syria is believed to have cleared the ground of the debris left by the Israeli bombardment.
He also wants to question named army officers, engineers and technicians alleged to have been engaged in the program. Heinonen submitted to the government in Damascus a list of Syrian officials with dates on which they are suspected of having met secretly with North Korean nuclear physicists. He has asked for clarifications on the subject of those encounters.
On Oct. 3, Damascus offered to continue to cooperate with the IAEA but stated that no more inspections would be allowed because the locations requested were restricted military areas.
The deputy director’s dossier will be submitted to the agency’s board meeting next month. If further probes are recommended and Syria stalls, the way will be opened for a complaint to the UN Security Council and possible sanctions against Damascus.