Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 11:55 UK

Nuclear inspectors to visit Syria

Undated photo released by CIA of alleged nuclear reactor under construction in eastern Syria.
The US has said Syria's reactor was similar to a North Korean one

The UN nuclear agency has said that Syria is to allow inspectors to visit the country to investigate allegations that it was building a nuclear reactor.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says its inspectors are due in Syria between the 22 and 24 June.

The alleged nuclear site was bombed by Israeli jets in September 2007.

In April, the United States accused North Korea of helping Syria build a nuclear reactor that "was not intended for peaceful purposes".

6 Sept 2007: Israel bombs site in Syria
1 Oct 2007: Syria's President Assad tells BBC site was military
24 Oct 2007: New satellite images taken show site bulldozed clear
24 April 2008: US claims Syrian site was nuclear reactor

Syria has repeatedly denied it has any nuclear weapons programme, or any such agreement with North Korea.

Officials have said the site that was bombed by Israel unused military facility under construction. Building on the site had stopped some time before the air strike, the Syrians said.

"I look forward to Syria's full co-operation in this matter," IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei told the agency's 35-nation board of governors on Monday.

In April this year, Mr ElBaradei criticised both what he saw as a US delay in releasing information on the Syrian site and Israel's bombing of the site before the IAEA could inspect it.

He repeated this on Monday without naming Israel or the US.

"It is deeply regrettable that information concerning this installation was not provided to the agency in a timely manner and that force was resorted to unilaterally before the agency was given an opportunity to establish the facts," Mr ElBaradei said.

"Nonetheless, I should emphasise that Syria, like all states with comprehensive [nuclear] safeguards agreements, has an obligation to report the planning and construction of any nuclear facility to the agency," he added.

"We are therefore treating this information with the seriousness it deserves and have been in discussions with the Syrian authorities... to verify, to the extent possible at this stage, the veracity of the information available."

The initial criticism followed a briefing by American security officials to members of the US Congress which showed evidence they said proved Syria was building a nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance.

This included pictures - said to have been obtained by Israel - allegedly taken inside the facility showing the reactor core being built.

The images showed striking similarities between the Syrian facility and the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, the US said. However, the facility was not yet operational and there was no fuel for the reactor, officials said.

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