iaea protests leak & ‘hype’

IAEA irked at ‘premature’ Syria nuclear disclosures
Pakistan Daily News, Nov 12 2008

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog criticised on Tuesday diplomatic disclosures that it had found uranium traces at a Syrian site under investigation, saying this was an effort to prejudge the agency’s conclusions. It was a rare open expression of irritation within the agency about news leaks. Several diplomats tracking the IAEA said on Monday that particles of processed uranium turned up in some test samples IAEA inspectors took at the site. These were not enough to draw conclusions about any undeclared nuclear activity but warranted further investigation, they told Reuters. IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming confirmed the agency was drafting a report on Syria and had put it on the agenda of the agency’s Nov 27-28 governors meeting — both firsts, in what diplomats said hinted inspectors had found something serious. But she said the IAEA’s evaluation of findings from a June visit to the site was not finished and a public verdict was unwarranted until then. Fleming said:

We regret that people are trying to prejudge the IAEA’s technical assessment. We are, however, accustomed to these kinds of efforts to hype and undermine the process before every meeting of the IAEA board.

The IAEA did not challenge the substance of Monday’s revelations about the uranium traces. A diplomat close to the agency said its concern was that the leaks could not reflect the full picture and that circulating highly confidential information before an official report could discourage Syrian cooperation with the IAEA. Syria’s ambassador to the IAEA did not return messages asking for comment. There was also no comment from Damascus. Diplomats said the question was the provenance of the contamination, since intelligence from Washington and other nations contained nothing to suggest nuclear fuel was stored at the site. The particles retrieved from some environmental swipe samples were of processed uranium, not of raw uranium ore, they said. Such traces could have been carried to the site inadvertently on scientists or workers or on equipment trucked in, they said. Syria has one declared atomic site, a research reactor.

Row over claims of Syrian nuclear find
Ian (Mossad) Black, Guardian, Nov 12 2008

Claims that traces of uranium were found at the site of an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor which was bombed by Israel last year prompted a row about politically motivated leaks yesterday. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, said the UN body was taking very seriously allegations that Syria has a hidden atomic programme. But he declined to confirm that uranium had been detected. Unnamed diplomats said on Monday that samples taken by UN inspectors from Kibar in northern Syria contained traces of uranium combined with other elements. The uranium was processed, suggesting some kind of nuclear link. “It isn’t enough to conclude or prove what the Syrians were doing, but the IAEA has concluded this requires further investigation,” said a diplomat with links to the Vienna-based watchdog. Melissa Fleming, an IAEA spokeswoman, said the agency was drafting its first-ever report on Syria, and had put it on the agenda of the agency’s governors meeting at the end of this month. But she added that the IAEA’s evaluation of findings from the June visit to the site was not finished and that a public verdict was unwarranted until then. “We regret that people are trying to prejudge the IAEA’s technical assessment,” she said. “We are, however, accustomed to these kinds of efforts to hype and undermine the process before every meeting of the IAEA board.” The IAEA did not challenge the substance of Monday’s revelations about the uranium traces.

The concern is that the leak of confidential information could jeopardise future Syrian cooperation. Syria has repeatedly denied being involved in any illicit nuclear activity. But Damascus fuelled suspicions immediately after last September’s Israeli air strike by razing the remains of the bombed structure it described as a military facility and then stonewalling before reluctantly allowing UN inspectors to visit it. The US says the site, close to the Euphrates river and the Iraqi border, was a secret nuclear reactor that was almost completed before it was attacked. Israel has never publicly acknowledged carrying out the raid but Israeli officials say privately that the attack helped restore its deterrent capability. Israel is an undeclared nuclear power and, unlike Syria, has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The mystery was compounded in August when the Syrian official charged with liaising with the IAEA, General Muhammad Suleiman, was assassinated by a sniper — a killing which remains unexplained and has fuelled speculation that he was murdered to prevent him being questioned about the nuclear issue.

One Comment

  1. moonkoon
    Posted November 12, 2008 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    So, a second story from a different “source” gives credence to the first.

    The IAEA response has done nothing but support the diplomatic “trackers”.

    The IAEA “paper tiger” appears now to be complicit in this clumsy propaganda exercise.

    I don’t have a rat in this race, I’m just looking for the truth and, after this, I’m not expecting any soon from the IAEA.

    It seems it is not just the “diplomats” who might have shakey hands.

    If they wanted to be seen as more than a waste of time and resources, they might like have a poke about over the border.

    The IAEA’s efforts can be nothing more than sycophantic posturing while continue to turn a blind eye to that “elephant in the room”.

    Shame, shame, shame.

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