IAEA to probe N Korean role in Syrian reactor
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The UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has said it will formally investigate the allegations that N. Korea has been helping Syria develop a nuclear reactor. IEAE chief Mohamed ElBaradei also reproached Washington for not turning over supposed evidence sooner.
VIENNA - The U.N. nuclear watchdog pledged on Friday to investigate what it called serious U.S. accusations that Syria secretly built a nuclear reactor with North Korean help.
Syria, which denies the U.S. allegations, accused Washington of involvement in an Israeli attack on Syria in September that the United States says struck the site of a suspected atomic reactor.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the U.S. intelligence allegations against Syria would be investigated with due vigour.
"The Agency will treat this information with the seriousness it deserves and will investigate the veracity of the information," ElBaradei said.
He confirmed Washington had handed over information which said that a Syrian installation destroyed by an Israeli air strike in September was a not yet completed atomic reactor.
"According to this information, the reactor was not yet operational and no nuclear material had been introduced into it," he said in a statement.
But he said Syria would have been obliged under its non-proliferation safeguards agreement with the Vienna-based U.N. watchdog to inform it in advance of any planning and construction of a nuclear facility.
Syria accused the United States of involvement in the Israeli attack on Syria.
A Syrian statement said: "The U.S. administration was apparently party to the execution" of the September raid by Israeli warplanes on eastern Syria.
The statement did not give details. A U.S. official said on Thursday that Washington did not give Israel any "green light" to strike the area.
Israel is widely believed to have assembled the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal at Dimona, a plant out of bounds to foreign inspection.
The United States presented on Thursday what it described as intelligence showing that North Korea had helped Syria build a suspected nuclear reactor.
The White House said the United States was convinced that North Korea had helped Syria to build a secret nuclear reactor. The comment came after intelligence officials briefed U.S. lawmakers about the raid.
The Syrian statement repeated Damascus's denial of involvement in nuclear activity and dismissed Washington's accusations as part of a campaign to discredit the Damascus government.
"The Syrian government regrets the campaign of lies and falsification by the U.S. administration against Syria, including allegations of nuclear activity," said the statement, which was issued on the state news agency.
ElBaradei said he "deplores the fact" that the United States had not turned the information over to the IAEA on the reactor, said to have been launched in 2001, in a "timely manner to enable us to verify its veracity and establish the facts."
"In light of the above, (I) view the unilateral use of force by Israel as undermining the due process of verification that is at the heart of the non-proliferation regime," ElBaradei added.
Under a deal North Korea struck with five regional powers, it had until the end of 2007 to disclose a complete list of its fissile material and nuclear weaponry as well as answer U.S. suspicions of enriching uranium and proliferating technology.
North Korea tested a nuclear device in Oct. 2006.
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