US complaints earlier this week about the “wholly inappropriate” IAEA aid scheduled to be provided to Syria have been rejected, and the agency has approved the $350,000 aid project to help the Syrian government select a site for a potential nuclear power plant.
The move came after three days of intensive negotiations, with the US and western allies arguing vigorously that the inconclusive investigation report issued by the IAEA last week was sufficient reason to delay the project, and IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei insisting that there was no legal basis for curbing Syria’s rights as an IAEA membership based on the unproven allegation.
One Western diplomat was quoted by the Associated Press saying “we’ve made our point” and that the alleged Syrian nuclear project “will remain under the spotlight.” Syria’s nuclear agency head Ibrahim Othman said the approval showed “an understanding of the position of Syria.”
The investigation stems from a September 2007 Israeli attack on a Syrian military building which the US later claimed was a nearly-completed gas-graphite nuclear reactor built with the help of North Korea. Concrete evidence of the claim has proven elusive, and has focused on a minute amount of uranium found near the site. In explaining the lack of proof for the allegations, diplomats have speculated that Syria dug an enormous hole and dumped all the proof into it.