IAEA criticises US information delay on Syria, vows to investigate

Other News Materials 25 April 2008 15:13 (UTC +04:00)

The UN nuclear watchdog on Friday criticised the United States for leaving it in the dark by not providing information on Syria's alleged secret nuclear installations in time, but said it would take the claims seriously, dpa reported.

"The Agency will treat this information with the seriousness it deserves and will investigate the veracity of the information," Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement.

He confirmed that the IAEA was provided with information by the US administration on Thursday which said the facility destroyed by Israel last September was a secret nuclear reactor for creating plutonium for nuclear weapons.

"According to this information the reactor was not yet operational and no nuclear material had been introduced," ElBaradei said, adding that the IAEA had not received information from its member states earlier.

"The Director General deplores the fact that this information was not provided to the Agency in a timely manner, in accordance with the Agency's responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to enable it to verify its veracity and establish the facts," the statement read.

The US administration charged North Korea with helping Syria to build a secret nuclear reactor similar to its facilities at Yongbyon and said Syria had broken its international obligations by hiding the facility from the UN nuclear watchdog.

"Syria has an obligation under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA to report the planning and construction of any nuclear facility to the Agency," ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei also slammed Israel's destruction of the plant last September, saying it undermined the IAEA's verification work.

"In the light of the above the Director General views the unilateral use of force by Israel as undermining the due process of verification that is at the heart of the non-proliferation regime," the statement said.

An 11-minute video posted by the Washington Post shows scenes from the construction of a purported gas-cooled graphite-moderated reactor at al-Kibar in an isolated desert region in eastern Syria. It also shows one still picture of an official from North Korea's nuclear programme meeting with the head of Syria's nuclear energy programme in Syria.

It is not clear where the photo was taken.

In addition, the video - really a collection of still photos - shows the al-Kibar facility after Israeli warplanes partially destroyed it on September 6, and a purported controlled demolition explosion carried out by Syria on October 10, 2007, to remove remaining evidence of the project.