Syria secretly tried to build nuclear reactor, UN watchdog says

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Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (R) shakes hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the a two-day nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran on Apr. 17, 2010. Iran slammed "atomic criminal" the United States and called for its suspension from the UN nuclear body, urging changes at the UN Security Council and in the Non-proliferation Treaty.

Credit:

Behrouz Mehri

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency has said for the first time that Syria secretly tried to build a nuclear reactor.

A target destroyed by Israeli warplanes in the desert area of Dair Alzour in September 2007 was actually a "nuclear reactor under construction," Yukiya Amano, the secretary general of the International Atomic Energy Agency told a Paris press conference.

Amano said the facility was not producing plutonium, according to VOA.

Syria has long denied the facility was related to nuclear activities, and rejects allegations that it is conducting secret atomic activities. But for over two years, Amman has refused the IAEA follow-up access to the remains of the complex that was being built at Dair Alzour.

U.S. intelligence reports said it was a nascent North Korean-designed nuclear reactor intended to produce bomb fuel, according to Haaretz. And inspectors found traces of uranium at Dair Alzour in June 2008 that were not in Syria's declared nuclear inventory, heightening concerns.

According to a March 7 statement by Amano to the IAEA, Syria has not cooperated with the watchdog agency since June 2008 to address issues related to the site.

The conference otherwise largely focused on nuclear safety and disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactor, heavily damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.