Friday, June 27, 2008
Syrians and UN nuclear inspectors play hide and seek
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that the three-man International Atomic Energy Agency team which inspected the El Kibar site bombed by Israel last September, returned to Vienna Wednesday, June 25, with soil and building materials samples gathered secretly without Syrian knowledge. From the Syrians they received different samples said to have been collected at a site which they insisted was a military facility under construction. During their four days in the country, Olli Heinonen, IAEA deputy director and leading negotiator with the Iranian authorities, and his team interviewed Syrian army officers and men presented by Damascus as having been employed at the facility. They denied it was a nuclear reactor and possessing nuclear credentials themselves. But, according to DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, the inspectors countered with their own list of officers, scientists and technicians – not only Syrians, but also Iranians and North Koreans employed in building the facility.
The Syrian side denied this and refused the inspectors permission to interview people on their list.
Last week, British, German and Israeli publications released new information from Israeli intelligence sources according to which the El Kibar reactor was intended to be a component of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s use of plutonium in its weapons projects was to be concealed by having it produced in Syria.
Wednesday, June 25, the London daily, the Guardian, quoted an adviser to Israel's national security council as saying: "The Iranians were involved in the Syrian programme. The idea was that the Syrians produce plutonium and the Iranians get their share. Syria had no reprocessing facility for the spent fuel. It's not deduction alone that brings almost everyone to think that the link exists" – implying that Israel had evidence.
DEBKAfile adds: War tensions between Israel and Iran have shot up in the last few days on the strength of reported Israeli preparations for an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations. By linking Syria’s destroyed reactor to Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli officials were saying in effect that the attack on an Iranian nuclear installation had already taken place …in Syria.