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Syria pledge to end nuclear secrecy

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Syria pledges full co-operation with a UN nuclear probe amid pressure to end its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators (AP)

Syria pledges full co-operation with a UN nuclear probe amid pressure to end its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators (AP)

Syria pledges full co-operation with a UN nuclear probe amid pressure to end its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators (AP)

In a major turnaround, Syria is pledging full co-operation with United Nations attempts to probe strong evidence that it secretly built a reactor that could have been used to make nuclear weapons, according to a secret document.

If Syria fulfils its promise, the move would end three years of stonewalling by Damascus of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Since 2008, the agency has tried in vain to follow up on strong evidence that a target bombed in 2007 by Israeli warplanes was a nearly-built nuclear reactor that would have produced plutonium once it was active.

Syria's sudden readiness to co-operate seems to be an attempt at derailing US-led attempts to have Damascus referred to the UN Security Council amid already strong international pressure on the Syrian leadership to end its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

An IAEA report last week said the Vienna-based agency "assesses that the building destroyed ... was a nuclear reactor" - the finding sought by Washington and its allies to push to have Syria reported to the council by a 35-nation IAEA board meeting next month.

That, in turn, apparently triggered Syria's decision to compromise. In a confidential note sent on Friday to board members, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano cites top Syrian nuclear agency officials as saying "we are ready to fully co-operate with the agency" on its probe of the suspect site.

Mr Amano said the pledge was contained in a letter dated on Thursday - two days after his agency delivered its assessment.

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But Washington is continuing its push. It has put forward a restricted draft of a resolution to be voted on at the 35-nation IAEA board meeting beginning on June 6 that - if passed - would report Syria to the security council for violating the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

Syria has denied hiding a nuclear programme, but it has refused to allow IAEA inspectors to revisit the bombed site after an initial mission found traces of uranium and other materials that strengthened suspicion that the site was nuclear.

The Syrian pledge of co-operation will allow it to lobby uncommitted nations to vote against any IAEA resolution on security council involvement. If Syria is reported, the council has options ranging from doing nothing to passing its own resolutions demanding compliance with the IAEA, followed by sanctions to enforce such demands - as has been the scenario for Iran.


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