IAEA challenges Syria on nukes amid internal repression

Security forces shot dead at least 16 protesters at Friday demonstrations at several points across Syria on June 17, activists told wire services by telephone. The deaths included the first protester to be killed in Syria’s second city, the commercial hub of Aleppo, the Local Coordination Committees said in a statement. Four people were killed in the northern flashpoint city of Homs, at least one in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, two in Dael in the southern province of Daraa, and one in the Damascus suburb of Douma, the activists said. (Reuters, AFP, June 17)

The Obama administration is now said to be considering the imposition of sanctions against Syria, including on the country’s oil and gas sector. The White House is also discussing whether President Bashir Assad could be accused of war crimes for his military’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, according to an anonymous administration official. (ABC, June 17)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on June 16 voted to report Syria to the UN Security Council because of non-compliance with its international nuclear obligations. In a 17-to-6 vote, with 11 countries abstaining, the IAEA passed a resolution that expressed “serious concern” about “Syria’s lack of cooperation,” highlighted Syria’s history of concealing nuclear activities, and noted that “the resulting absence of confidence that Syria’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes have given rise to concerns regarding the maintenance of international peace and security.”

The resolution came after the IAEA Board of Governors considered a report by IAEA director Yukiya Amano which provided evidence that a Syrian facility at Dair Alzour, which was destroyed by Israeli planes in September 2007, was very likely a nuclear reactor. As such, it should have been reported to the Agency. He also cited Syria’s refusals to honor repeated requests by the IAEA for information related to the site.

In a written statement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the decision by the IAEA Board of Governors to report Syria’s non-compliance to the Security Council, calling it “an important step, given Syria’s demonstrated refusal to cooperate with the IAEA investigation and its attempt to construct a secret nuclear reactor with the assistance of North Korea. Syria is challenging the authority of the IAEA and the integrity of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation regime.” (VOA, June 16)

See our last posts on Syria, the Arab Spring and nuclear fear.

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  1. Syrian tycoon steps aside in sop to protesters
    Syria’s richest man, Rami Makhlouf—a confidant and cousin of President Assad—announced June 16 that he is selling his 40% holding in Syria’s mobile phone network, Syriatel, and putting the money into helping the country’s poor. His explanation made clear it was an act of appeasement to the protesters: “Because we are so keen on preserving the nation, its land, its people and its leadership, and so we don’t become a heavy burden to this nation.” (CNN, June 17)