(RTTNews) – Western intelligence agencies have identified a second suspected nuclear site in Syria which, they believe, was set up to produce fuel for the country’s secret nuclear program, a German newspaper reported on Thursday.
Munich’s ‘Sueddeutsche Zeitung’ newspaper claimed in its report that photos taken from inside two buildings near Damascus, obtained by Western intelligence agencies, showed equipment characteristic for uranium conversion.
According to the report, experts have expressed doubts that facilities were used to make fuel for Syria’s suspected al-Kibar nuclear reactor, which was destroyed in an Israeli bombing in September 2007.
A later inspection by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had found traces of unnatural uranium at the site of the suspected reactor. Syria, however, maintains that the traces of uranium found were residue from missiles used to destroy the site by the Israelis.
The IAEA inspectors had collected samples from a suspected nuclear facility in June 2008 after the U.S. alleged that Syria had secretly built the nuclear reactor with North Korean help in the country’s remote eastern desert.
U.S. intelligence agencies claim the site resembled to Yongbyon reactor in North Korea and say that the facility could produce weapon-grade nuclear material if it was not destroyed in the Israeli air raid.
Syria rejected the U.S. allegations, saying that the building destroyed in the Israeli air strike was an unused military facility under construction. Damascus also insists that it is not pursuing a clandestine development program as alleged by Western countries.
The IAEA had said in an earlier report that the destroyed Syrian site had the characteristics of a nuclear reactor. The U.N. nuclear watchdog, however, did not rule out the possibility that the site was being used for non-nuclear purposes when it was destroyed in the bombing.
Although Syria had allowed IAEA inspectors to take samples from the site of the suspected nuclear reactor in 2008, it later blocked them from making follow-up visits to the site. The agency says that Syria is yet to answer some questions regarding the suspected nuclear facility.
Also, Damascus has since denied IAEA inspectors access to several buildings which it suspects to be associated with Syria’s secret nuclear program. Those buildings reportedly included the possible uranium conversion sites mentioned in the German newspaper report.
The IAEA refused to comment on the report but it had earlier made attempts to identify the source of fuel for the so-called al-Kibar nuclear reactor.
The latest developments come as the IAEA is preparing for a meeting of its governing board early next month to discuss several issues, including Syria’s continued refusal to allow its inspectors access to suspected nuclear facilities.
by RTT Staff Writer
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