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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Atomic Watchdog Chief Targets Syria

Lisa Bryant June 06, 2011

The head of the United Nations atomic agency suggests Syria may be covering up its nuclear activities. The agency head also criticized Iran over its alleged nuclear program at the start of a key weeklong meeting in Vienna.

International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Yukiya Amano said Monday the agency wants concrete results from Damascus on what the IAEA believes may have been a secret attempts to build a nuclear power plant.

"The Syrian government was given ample time to cooperate fully concerning the Dair Alzour site and did not do so,"he said. "Nevertheless, we have obtained enough information to draw a conclusion."

The IAEA believes Damascus very likely had been building a nuclear reactor in a remote area in northeastern Syria. The site was was bombed by Israel in 2007. Syria claims it was building a military facility.

Made at the start of a week-long board of governors meeting in Vienna, Amano's remarks appear to fuel a push by the United States and several other western nations to have Syria sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. That push comes as Damascus is already under fire by the international community over its brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

The 35-nation IAEA board meeting will also tackle another thorny issue - Iran's nuclear program. Amano had strong remarks concerning Tehran as well.

"Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material is in peaceful activities," said Amano.

Iran claims its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes. Many world powers fear Tehran is trying to build a nuclear bomb. Efforts by IAEA members to get Iran to be more forthcoming have stalled. Chatham House analyst Malcolm Grimston doubts there will be progress anytime soon.

"It's been a game of cat and mouse with Iran,"he said. "They seem to play brinksmanship and then back off at the last moment and then start up again. And I think that's something we're going to see for an awful long time as yet."

Board members will also discuss nuclear safety this week in the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant accident.

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