Aerial photo of Syrian reactor (archives)
US demands Syria cooperate on nuke plan
(Video) American ambassador to UN nuclear watchdog says Damascus must decide whether it plans to follow in Iran's footsteps or cooperate on its alleged atomic program. A failure to do so, he warns, would lead to punishment measures
VIDEO - A warning to Syria: US Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Gregory Schulte says Syria has three months – until the United Nations nuclear watchdog's next governors' meeting in March – to start cooperating on its nuclear program, or it will be punished. A failure to do so, he warns, will lead to "punishment measures".




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In an interview published Saturday with the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, Schulte said that "the Damascus authorities must decide whether they wish to follow in Iran's footsteps or cooperate."


Schulte also noted that North Korea has neither denied nor confirmed its involvement in the construction of the Syrian nuclear reactor allegedly bombed by Israel.


"I hope the Syrians reach the conclusion that they should cooperate, for the sake of their own interests," he said.


According to Schulte, if Damascus failed to cooperate "this would lead to a negative response, and serious questions would be raised".


Schulte refused to discuss the sanctions which would be imposed on Syria if it continued its policy, saying that the IAEA's goal at this time is to convince Damascus to cooperate.


"No one is talking about sanctions today. The only thing we are talking about is a probe. The international agency is giving the Syrians an opportunity to cooperate, and they have an extension until the next meeting to cooperate."


He added that this was not an official extension, but a date on which the nuclear watchdog would reexamine the Syrian nuclear issue, after the matter was discussed in the council's latest meeting two weeks ago.


Despite his reservations, Schulte added that "Syria is engaging in a tactic used by Iran in recent years – the failure to cooperate. This is not the road we want Syria to take. We hope Syria cooperates fully with the agency in regards to what happened in the Syrian desert. If they fail to cooperate, there will be consequences."


Syrian reactor before bring bombed by Israel (Archive photo: AFP)


Only two weeks ago, the IAEA decided to provide Syria with technical support as part of its efforts to develop a nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes. This decision was a serious blow to the United States and Israel, who have been working in the past year to thwart this move, claiming Damascus is trying to develop nuclear weapons.


The UN nuclear watchdog has been probing Syria since May, following American intelligence reports which stated that Damascus was close to completing the Pyongyang-supervised construction of a nuclear reactor for the production of plutonium, at the site bombed by Israel.


According to reports published last month, IAEA inspectors discovered uranium traces at the secret site attacked by Israel in September 2007. Syria denied claims that it had tried to attain nuclear energy for military purposes, violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it had signed.


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