IAEA seeks to contain dispute over Syria nuclear request

By Abdelwaheb El-Gueyed, KUNA,

Vienna : The IAEA Board of Governors will seek on Wednesday to contain the dispute triggered off by Syria’s request for technical assistant for a nuclear power reactor due to western opposition.

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For the third day in succession, the board member countries will try to find a consensus between western countries and Syria, which is backed by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), IAEA sources told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

Under such a consensus, the IAEA will help in the conduction of a feasibility study for a Syrian nuclear power reactor, concurrently with IAEA inspectors verifying Syrian Al-Kiber military facility, the source said.

Syria seeks help of the UN nuclear watchdog to construct a nuclear power station, but the endeavor faces western pressures particularly from the United States.

However, China, Russia and several other developing countries billed western opposition as “political interference” that could undermine the IAEA’s civil nuclear development program.

The IAEA technical committee is mulling a list of 629 projects slated for construction between 2009 and 2011.

Syria demands that its nuclear power plant should remain on the list in line with the provisions of the IAEA-Syrian protocol for technical cooperation.

However, western powers believe that Syria is illegible for the IAEA technical cooperation in the construction of a nuclear reactor due its failure to cooperate with the IAEA inspectors.

For his part, IAEA Director General Mohamed El-Baradei said during a closed-door IAEA technical committee meeting that denying Syria access to technological assistant was based on no legal grounds.

El-Baradei asserted that the IAEA had no right to deprive Syria of the technical assistances in the light of the signed agreements between both sides.

The IAEA chief’s remarks sparked the fury of western countries, especially the US, which got engaged in heated debate with ElBaradei.

The IAEA inspectors are tasked with verifying the nature of the Syrian Al-Kiber military facility which was bombed by Israel in September, 2007.