INTERNATIONAL

IAEA raps U.S. over Syrian reactor

For not updating it over Pyongyang’s assistance

VIENNA: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday criticised the U.S. for not giving the nuclear watchdog information on what Washington said was a nuclear reactor in Syria being built secretly by North Korea.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei also criticised Israel for bombing the site seven months ago, in a statement that reflected his anger at being kept out of the picture for so long. The White House broke its silence about the issue on Thursday, hours after members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee were briefed on the alleged reactor. Intelligence officials said evidence included dozens of photographs taken from ground level and footage of the interior of the building taken by spy satellites after the Israeli strike.

The IAEA is currently investigating allegations that Iran tried to make nuclear weapons, and it was using not only its own research, but intelligence provided by the U.S. and other members of the 35-nation IAEA Board. “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,” said an IAEA statement.

“The Director-General views the unilateral use of force by Israel as undermining the due process of verification, which is at the heart of the non-proliferation regime.” Mr. Baradei was briefed on Thursday by John Rood, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control. Asenior U.S. official said a U.S. intelligence team was in Vienna to brief IAEA representatives.

A senior diplomat linked to the IAEA said Mr. Baradei had already let his displeasure known to Mr. Rood during the latter’s phone call over the delay between the time the information became available to the U.S. and when Mr. Baradei was informed of it. U.S. Congressional Intelligence Committee members also expressed anger on Thursday over the seven-month time lapse before their committee was briefed. The alleged reactor was within weeks or months of being functional when Israeli jets destroyed it, said a top U.S. official. Syria on Thursday denied the allegations. — AP

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