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IAEA to confront Syria with imagery of suspect site soon: ElBaradei

The UN atomic watchdog is probing allegations that Damascus had been building a clandestine nuclear facility at Al-Kibar, a remote desert area, until it was bombed by Israeli planes in September 2007. Syria has denied the allegations as "ridiculous," saying the building was simply a disused military utility.
by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Nov 27, 2008
The UN atomic watchdog hopes to confront Syria soon with satellite imagery of a suspect nuclear site bombed by Israeli planes last year, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Thursday.

The IAEA "has recently been able to secure agreement to show Syria imagery from member state satellites of the site shortly after the bombing, and will do so at the earliest opportunity," ElBaradei told the agency's board of governors at the start of a two-day meeting.

He did not specify which member states had come forward with the imagery.

But ElBaradei complained that no commercial satellite imagery -- as opposed to intelligence imagery -- of the site was yet available.

"For its assessment of the site immediately after the bombing, the agency was unable to obtain commercial satellite imagery," ElBaradei said.

"It is regrettable, and indeed baffling, that imagery for this critical period, which would have been most valuable in helping to clarify the nature of the building that was destroyed, was not available," he said.

The United Site claims that the remote desert site, Al-Kibar, had been a covert nuclear reactor close to completion, until it was razed by Israeli bombs in September 2007.

Damascus has repeatedly dismissed the allegations, insisting that Al-Kibar was a disused military site.

In a first report, made after an initial visit by IAEA inspectors in June, the IAEA found that Al-Kibar did indeed appear to share some of the characteristics of a nuclear reactor and that traces of uranium had been found there.

However, follow-up visits to Al-Kibar and a number of other military sites in Syria, and access to documentation and individuals would be needed to draw any definitive conclusions, the report said.

ElBaradei complained again on Thursday that the agency's probe had been "severely hampered ... by the unilateral use of force" by Israel.

"The destruction of the building and the subsequent removal of the debris made the agency's verification work quite difficult and complex, rendering the results so far inconclusive," he said.

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IAEA seeks compromise over Syrian nuclear aid issue: diplomats
Vienna (AFP) Nov 25, 2008
The UN atomic watchdog's member states agreed Tuesday to adjourn a decision over whether to help Syria with the possible construction of a nuclear reactor until Wednesday, diplomats said.

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