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UN nuclear watchdog chief dispatches team to Syria

UN nuclear watchdog chief dispatches team to Syria

IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei
The head of the United Nations atomic watchdog announced today that he is sending a team to visit Syria this month after expressing regret that his agency had not received information sooner alleging that a Syrian installation destroyed by Israel last year was a nuclear reactor.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) received that information – which claimed that the destroyed Syrian facility was not yet operational and had not yet been introduced to nuclear material – from the United States in April.

“It is deeply regrettable that information concerning this installation was not provided to the Agency in a timely manner and that force was resorted to unilaterally before the Agency was given an opportunity to establish the facts,” IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said.

Speaking to the agency’s 35-member Board of Governors in Vienna, he stressed Syria’s obligations under its comprehensive safeguards agreements to report the planning and construction of any nuclear facility to the IAEA.

Mr. ElBaradei announced that he is sending a team to Syria from 22-24 June to verify, “to the extent possible at this stage, the veracity of the information available to the Agency.”

On Iran, he said that progress has been stalled regarding the one remaining issue: clarifying allegations and questions regarding possible military dimensions to the country’s nuclear programme.

Of particular concern are the alleged past weaponization studies carried out by Iran, the Director General said. “Iran maintains that it has never had a nuclear weapons programme and that the documents related to these alleged studies are ‘forged’ or ‘fabricated,’” he said.

While the IAEA is analysing information and explanations furnished by Iran, the country “has not yet agreed to implement all the transparency measures required to clarify this cluster of allegations and questions,” the Director General said.

Furthermore, Iran has not provided the agency with access to all the documents it has requested and has not supplied explanations to back up its statements. “Such clarifications are critical to an assessment of the nature of Iran’s past and present nuclear programme,” Mr. ElBaradei said.

Iranian authorities have stated that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend that it is driven by military ambitions. It has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).