Syria's official press lashed out at the United States and Israel on Tuesday over claims it was building a secret nuclear reactor, and said the Jewish state's own atomic facilities should be subject to international inspection.
UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Monday that his inspectors would this month visit the site of the suspected reactor that was bombed by Israeli warplanes in September last year.
The site at Al-Kibar was attacked after Israeli and US intelligence concluded it was a partly constructed nuclear reactor, but the Syrians have denied the allegations.
"The American and Israeli claims are false. Instead, Israel should be called on to submit its own nuclear installations to international inspection so at least we know how many nuclear weapons it possesses," Syria's official Ath-Thawra newspaper said in an editorial.
Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear armed power in the Middle East but has a policy of neither confirming nor denying its arsenal and is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
On Monday, ElBaradei criticized Israel for attacking the site before the International Atomic Energy Agency had a chance to inspect it, and the United States for waiting until April to pass on intelligence alleging that the reactor had a military purpose and was built with North Korea's help.
He said his inspectors will visit the site in northeastern Syria from June 22 to 24, adding: "I look forward to Syria's full cooperation in this matter."
US intelligence on Al-Kibar included photographs taken inside the reactor showing construction of the shield for the reactor core, and control rods and refueling ports on top of the reactor.
US officials said the reactor and the building that housed it were similar in design to the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, which produces plutonium.
Despite the nuclear allegations, Israel and Syria announced last month that they have launched indirect
peace talks, with Turkey acting as mediator, after previous negotiations were broken off in 2000.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is currently in Washington, said last month that the process of establishing the indirect talks began in February 2007 - months before the Syrian site was bombed.
The peace moves raised eyebrows in the US administration, which has sought to isolate Syria for what Washington sees as its meddling in Lebanese affairs and its support for militants in Iraq.