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Syria's Nuclear Reactor

Syria did not tell the International Atomic Energy Agency it was building a nuclear reactor in a remote area of eastern Syria with help from North Korean nuclear scientists and engineers, and after it was destroyed in September 2007, made every effort to bury the evidence, says White House press secretary Dana Perino:

"This cover-up only served to reinforce our confidence that this reactor was not intended for peaceful purposes," said Ms. Perino in a prepared statement April 24th. The U.S., she said, is briefing the International Atomic Energy Agency on this cover-up.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed in Vienna April 25th that his office has been given the U.S. information and that the Syrian reactor was not yet operational and no nuclear material had been introduced into it:

"This agency will treat this information with the seriousness it deserves and will investigate the veracity of the information," Mr. ElBaradei said. "Syria," he said, "has an obligation under its safeguards agreement with the IAEA to report the planning and construction of any nuclear facility to the agency."

Syria has been a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty since 1969 and has operated one small research center that is subject to IAEA safeguards. Senior U.S. intelligence officials said during a White House background briefing April 24 that North Korean nuclear-related officials and high-level Syrian officials began discussing this nuclear reactor as early as 1997.

The nuclear reactor, under construction near al-Kibar along the eastern edge of the Euphrates River in the Dayr az Zawr province, was destroyed in an Israeli air strike early in the morning of September 6, 2007. "Syria destroyed the remainder of the reactor building with a massive controlled demolition on October 10, 2007 as part of an ongoing effort to remove all evidence of the reactor’s existence," said a White House official.

"The Syrian regime must come clean before the world regarding its illicit nuclear activities," Ms. Perino said. "The Syrian regime supports terrorism, takes action that destabilizes Lebanon, allows the transit of some foreign fighters into Iraq and represses its own people," she said.