Syria said Friday a building bombed by Israeli planes last year was not a covert nuclear reactor, as Washington stuck to its allegations which it said was borne in a findings by the UN nuclear watchdog. "We are talking about military bases, we are talking about military activities," Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria's Atomic Energy Commission, told reporters after International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors briefed members about their first visit to the site in June.
Earlier on Friday, the US envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA Gregory Schulte, had said the initial findings of the inspectors' visit had served to harden the suspicions against Syria. A four-page report circulated to IAEA board members on Wednesday "reinforces the assessment of my government that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor in its eastern desert and thereby violating its IAEA safeguards obligations," Schulte said, according to AFP. "The report sharply contradicts a number of Syria's claims and catalogues Syria's repeated refusal to answer IAEA questions."
Othman insisted that since the site was a military one, the IAEA had no right to inspect it. "No other country would allow any person to visit a restricted military site, "just because he would like to see it," Othman said.
It was up to Syria's military authorities to decide whether to allow IAEA inspectors into the site. "I'm just pointing that this is military ... and we are in a war, we're still in a war in the Middle East," he said.
According to Othman, the evidence was not sufficient to warrant an investigation. "Collecting three particles from the desert doesn't mean there was a reactor there," he said. "In our opinion this file should be closed."
When asked about the IAEA's findings that the building displayed some of the characteristics associated with a nuclear reactor, Othman replied: "If every square building, every rectangular building would be a reactor ...then there are a lot of reactors in the world."
Syria "will continue cooperation with the agency, there's no doubt," he said, adding: "We will continue cooperation, we are member of the international community and we are a member of the IAEA."