x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Syria 'will not allow' further UN nuclear probes

A senior Syrian official has ruled out further UN inspections probing possible plutonium production.

VIENNA // A senior Syrian official has ruled out new visits by UN inspectors probing allegations that his country had a covert programme that could lead to nuclear weapons production. The official could be overruled, however, by higher Syrian authorities. Syrian refusal to allow inspections could doom the International Atomic Energy Agency's efforts to follow up US assertions that a site bombed by Israel last year was a nearly finished reactor that could have produced plutonium. Syria allowed the IAEA to visit the site near the desert town of Al Kibar in June but has since turned down requests for more inspections.

"We will not allow another visit," Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria's atomic agency, said Friday. He said the IAEA had agreed with Syria that there would be only be one visit. The IAEA has said it agreed to make one initial visit, but has requested others. The IAEA has said it suspects three other sites may have been nuclear-related and linked to the bombed location. Mr Othman described the three sites as (non-nuclear) "military bases" that could not be visited by outsiders, although higher Syrian authorities could decide otherwise. * AP