Syria Probably Tried to Build Nuclear Plant, UN Agency Says

Syria probably tried to build a secret nuclear reactor in violation of international agreements, the United Nations nuclear watchdog reported today. The suspected reactor was destroyed in a 2007 Israeli raid.

“Considering all information available to the agency, the agency concludes that the destroyed building was very likely a nuclear reactor and should have been declared by Syria,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said today in a 9-page restricted report obtained by Bloomberg News.

The IAEA’s conclusion that Syria built a secret reactor may raise pressure on the government of President Bashar Al-Assad even as his forces violently quell protests that have erupted around the country. The UN report is a victory for U.S., which asked the IAEA to deliver a final verdict on Syria in a March 8 statement.

“Features of the destroyed building are comparable to those of gas cooled graphite moderated reactors of the type and size alleged,” the IAEA reported. “Prior to the bombing, the configuration of the infrastructure at the site, including its connections for cooling and treated water, was able to support the operation of such a reactor and was not consistent with Syria’s claims.”

Covert Nuclear Program

U.S. intelligence, which suspected Syria of having a covert nuclear program in the 1990s, was certain the country was building a secret facility in Dair Alzour with North Korean help during the first quarter of 2007, according to congressional testimony in April 2008. While the IAEA found at least four man- made uranium particles at the site, it had abstained from offering a definitive conclusion.

Syria has alleged that a handful of uranium particles found at the site came from Israeli munitions used to destroy the complex. The facility was a conventional military base, the country told IAEA inspectors.

Hiding a reactor would violate Syria’s obligation under international proliferation rules. Iran was referred to the UN Security Council to face sanctions after the IAEA’s 35-member board of governors determined it had violated rules by not declaring uranium enrichment work.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone at

jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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