UPDATE 2-Syria may have built atom site near Damascus-report

Thu Feb 24, 2011 3:44pm GMT

There is a "strong suspicion that was a uranium conversion facility related to the process of making fuel for the al-Kibar reactor," ISIS research analyst Paul Brannan told Reuters.

Syria, an ally of Iran, denies ever harbouring an atom bomb programme and says the IAEA should focus on Israel instead because of its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

There was no immediate comment on Thursday from Syria's mission to the U.N. atomic body, the Vienna-based IAEA.

Syria has repeatedly rebuffed requests by the IAEA for follow-up access to Dair Alzour and three sites related to it, saying they are non-nuclear, military installations.

ISIS said satellite images from July 25, 2008, showed considerable activity at the Marj as Sultan facility, which it believes is one of the three additional sites.

"What I see as most significant is the actions that Syria takes to throw a roadblock in the way of the IAEA. It knew that the IAEA was going to want to visit these sites," Brannan said.

The IAEA is due to issue its quarterly reports about Iran and Syria ahead of a March 7-11 meeting of the Vienna-based body's 35-nation governing board.

The United States has suggested that the IAEA may need to consider invoking its "special inspection" mechanism to give it authority to look anywhere necessary in Syria at short notice.

Some diplomats in Vienna have cautioned against any such move, saying it would distract attention from the more pressing issue of Iran, which Western powers suspect is trying to develop nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies this. (Reporting by Fredrik Dahl and Michael Shields in Vienna and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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