U.N. council split likely on Syria atomic issue: U.S.

Date: 7/13/2011

By Megan Davies

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Divisions in the Security Council are likely to prevent any immediate concrete outcome when the body discusses Syria's alleged covert atomic work on Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said.

The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors voted in June to report Syria to the Security Council, rebuking it for stonewalling an agency probe into the Dair Alzour complex bombed by Israel in 2007.

Russia and China –– both permanent council members –– were among those opposing the referral by the Vienna–based body, but were outvoted. Unlike on the council, there are no veto powers on the IAEA board.

"I think as was obvious given the vote in Vienna that there are certain members of the council ... including some veto–wielding members, who did not support the referral and who are unlikely to be prepared to support a council product at this time," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters.

That could mean it might be difficult to get a statement or resolution on the issue agreed. Diplomats said the most likely first step council members could strive for is language urging Syria to cooperate with the IAEA investigation but that Damascus is unlikely to face U.N. sanctions over the issue.

U.S. intelligence reports have said the complex was a nascent, North Korean–designed reactor intended to produce plutonium for atomic weaponry, before Israeli warplanes reduced it to rubble. Syria has said it was a non–nuclear military facility.

The Security Council will be briefed on the subject by Neville Whiting, who heads the IAEA safeguards department dealing with Syria and Iran, officials said.


"We will hear directly from the IAEA what we hope will be a detailed summary of their report and that will begin a process of discussion within the Security Council," said Rice.

There has been some skepticism about sending the nuclear issue to New York, with some arguing that whatever happened at Dair Alzour is in the past and is no longer a threat.

Russia's IAEA Ambassador Grigory Berdennikov said in June the site did not pose a threat because it had been destroyed.

The Security Council has also been unable to agree on a proposed resolution condemning Syria's crackdown on opponents. The text, drafted by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, has been blocked for more than a month under veto threats from Russia and China, both long–standing allies of Syria.

Rice said she regretted that the council had not reached agreement on a "strong statement or resolution condemning what has transpired in Syria."

"We think it is not a good reflection on this council that we have not yet been able to come together on that," she said.

However she said it was "wise to treat the issues of the nuclear program and the political circumstances separately" and did not expect them to be merged on Thursday.

The Security Council, did however, unite on Tuesday to strongly condemn this week's attacks by demonstrators against the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus.

(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; editing by Christopher Wilson)


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