Syria must not be allowed to stonewall IAEA probe: US

Syria granted UN inspectors one-off access to a desert site in June 2008.

Vienna: Syria cannot be allowed to continue to block a long-running investigation by the UN atomic watchdog into alleged illicit nuclear activity, the United States said here on Wednesday.

"The United States` position on this is that we are not going to let this matter simply fade away or go away. We are not going to let Syria simply run out the clock on this matter," Washington`s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Glyn Davies, told reporters.

The IAEA has been investigating allegations since 2008 that Syria had been building an undeclared reactor at a remote desert site called Dair Alzour until it was bombed by Israeli planes in September 2007.

Damascus granted UN inspectors one-off access to the site in June 2008 but no follow-up visits to either Dair Alzour or other possible related sites since then.

Earlier this week, the head of the Vienna-based IAEA, Yukiya Amano, complained that Syria "has not cooperated with the agency since June 2008”.

"There is credible information that Dair Alzour was a reactor, that it was constructed with help from North Korea and that -- and this is the key part, -- that it was intended for non-peaceful purposes," Davies said on the sidelines of an ongoing meeting of the IAEA`s board of governors here.

Damascus had "actively hindered and stood in the way of the IAEA`s investigation by denying the IAEA access to the site, by refusing to provide information and by sanitising or cleaning up the suspected sites," Davies continued.

The IAEA board of governors "cannot accept this tactic this undermining of the nuclear safeguards regime”.

Earlier this month, Syria did in fact agree to allow IAEA inspectors visit a much less significant site at Homs, a move which Amano said could be seen as a possible step forward.

The visit looks set to take place on April 01.

IAEA chief Amano said the visit would not "solve all the problems, of course”, but, depending on what inspectors found at Homs, "this could be a step forward in my view”.

The current EU president Hungary, in its own statement to the IAEA board, was similarly cautious.

"We hope it will be followed by further steps by Syria to help clarify all unresolved issues," Hungary said.

US ambassador Davies said the IAEA could also resort to a rarely-used tool called a "special inspection" if Damascus continued to stonewall the probe.

"That is a tool that could be used to get at this issue," Davies said.

But he added: "I don`t think it`s up to us... We`ll take our lead from (Amano) on the special inspections."

Bureau Report

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