Friday, October 19, 2007

UN Atomic Agency Sees Photos of Syrian Site Bombed Last Month

By Jonathan Tirone

Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- United Nations nuclear experts are examining satellite imagery of a Syrian site that may have been bombed by Israel last month because it was a possible nuclear facility, according to a diplomat familiar with the investigation.

The diplomat, who requested anonymity because he isn't authorized to speak to reporters, declined to elaborate on what the images show. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency receives data equivalent to about 20,000 images a day of nuclear and suspected nuclear sites, he said.

The IAEA said this week it is in contact with Syrian authorities about media reports that an Israeli air strike was aimed at destroying a reactor based on a design used in North Korea's nuclear weapons program. On Oct. 13, the New York Times cited unidentified foreign officials as saying Israel attacked a suspected Syrian plutonium reactor on Sept. 6 to demonstrate Israel's unwillingness to allow a neighboring country to possess nuclear weapons.

The IAEA, which oversees the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, urged governments with knowledge of such a reactor in Syria to come forward with information. The agency wouldn't comment late today on the Syrian imagery.

Syria is a signatory to the nuclear accord. Under treaty guidelines, countries must inform IAEA inspectors of atomic projects ``as early as possible before nuclear material is introduced into a new facility.''

The IAEA routinely receives images from national intelligence agencies as well as commercial satellite photo vendors. The diplomat wouldn't say who produced the images of the Syrian site.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at

Last Updated: October 19, 2007 14:06 EDT

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