Western intelligence finds possible Syrian N-fuel site: Report

IAEA wonders where Syria would have produced uranium fuel for al-Kibar site.

Updated: Feb 24, 2011, 12:35 PM IST

Vienna: Western intelligence services have identified a site that looks like it was geared toward making material for Syria`s alleged secret nuclear programme, a German newspaper reported on Thursday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna has been wondering where Syria would have produced uranium fuel for the so-called al-Kibar site, which Israel bombed in 2007 on suspicion it was a secret reactor.

Intelligence agencies have obtained photos from inside two buildings near Damascus that contain equipment characteristic for uranium conversion, Munich`s Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported. The uranium conversion process is part of making fuel for the type of reactor that Syria allegedly built.

An IAEA spokeswoman said she could not comment on the press report.

The IAEA previously reported unsuccessful attempts to enter several buildings that were likely associated with al-Kibar. Sueddeutsche said the possible conversion site was among them.

Syria has denied having had a secret nuclear programme, while the IAEA has said al-Kibar bears key characteristics of a reactor site.

Uranium conversion equipment can resemble gear for other industries.

"Many of the key equipment items for uranium conversion plants are common to several segments of the chemical process industry," the international nuclear export guidelines note.

The intelligence leak came shortly after Western diplomats said earlier this month that the Syrian Foreign Ministry has responded negatively to an IAEA request for cooperation.

Western diplomats have said that several Western countries would like to raise the pressure on Syria by getting the IAEA governing board to pass a resolution early next month.