The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Wednesday that a Syrian site bombed by Israel in 2007 had the characteristics of a nuclear reactor. It also admitted that its investigation into Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program is deadlocked.
The conclusions were contained in two confidential reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency that were obtained by The Associated Press. The documents were being shared with the 35 nations on the IAEA's board.
The report on Iran – which also went to the U.N. Security Council – cautioned that Tehran's stonewalling meant the IAEA could not “provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.”
And it noted that the Islamic Republic continued to expand uranium enrichment, an activity that can make both nuclear fuel or fissile warhead material.
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While that conclusion was expected, it was a formal confirmation of Iran's refusal to heed Security Council demands to freeze such activities, despite three sets of sanctions meant to force an enrichment stop.
Iran denies weapons ambitions, and Syria asserts the site hit more than a year ago by Israeli warplanes had no nuclear functions. But the two reports did little to dispel suspicions about either country.
On Syria, the agency said that soil samples taken from the bombed site had a “significant number” of chemically processed natural uranium particles.
A senior U.N official, who demanded anonymity because the information was restricted, said the findings were unusual for a facility that Syria alleges had no nuclear purpose.
The same official characterized U.N. attempts to elicit answers from Tehran on allegations that it had drafted plans for nuclear weapons programs as at a standstill.
The Syrian report said “it cannot be excluded” that the building destroyed in a remote stretch of the Syrian desert on Sept. 6, 2007, was “intended for non-nuclear use.”
Still, “the features of the building … are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site,” it said, suggesting the facility's size also fits that picture.
The report took note of Syrian assertions that any uranium particles found at the site must have come from Israeli missiles that hit the building, near the town of Al Kibar. The senior U.N. official said “the onus of this investigation is on Syria” and noted that the particles were not of depleted uranium – the most commonly used variety of the metal in ammunition, meant to harden ordnance for increased penetration.