Syria rejects IAEA findings on alleged nuclear site

A senior Syrian official on Tuesday outright rejected findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that could indicate the country had a secret nuclear facility.

The IAEA and a senior diplomat said last week that the nuclear watchdog agency had found additional particles of man-made uranium as well as traces of graphite in samples taken at an alleged nuclear reactor site that was bombed by Israel in 2007.

The IAEA has not yet concluded whether the graphite was of a type used in nuclear facilities. Syria maintains the al-Kibar site was a conventional military facility, dpa reported.

Talking to reporters at the IAEA, the director general of the Atomic Energy Commission of Syria, Ibrahim Othman, stuck to Syria's assertion that the uranium found by IAEA inspectors at the site came from Israeli munitions.

However, the IAEA said in its report issued last week that based on various analyses, "the agency's current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles."

"That is an explanation which we don't accept," Othman said, suggesting that the analysis could have been faulty and that finding just 80 particles of uranium did not constitute any proof.

He was speaking after an IAEA briefing for diplomats on its latest reports on Syria and Iran.

However, a diplomat present at the briefing said that IAEA officials projected a slide about the extent of the uranium finding, entitled "80 particles - significant."

IAEA officials told diplomats at the briefing that the structure of the bombed building - of which satellite images are available - as well as the surrounding infrastructure were consistent with that of a reactor, the diplomat said.

When IAEA inspectors visited the site last June, the samples they took also showed traces of man-made graphite, according to several diplomats close to the IAEA.

"They didn't find graphite," Othman told reporters.

However, the Syrian official also said that if the al-Kibar site had really been a reactor, more of that material would have been detected.

Othman indicated during the briefing that Syria had built a missile-related facility there after the Israeli air raid, according to the diplomat at the meeting.

Othman also indicated to reporters that Syria would at present not allow any more IAEA inspections to clarify the issue.

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