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Page last updated at 20:17 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 21:17 UK

'Good start' to UN's Syria probe

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

The head of a UN team investigating allegations that Syria has been working on a secret nuclear weapons programme says their work is off to a good start.

The IAEA official, Olli Heinonen, said inspectors had taken samples at the al-Kibar site in the Syrian desert.

The area was bombed by Israeli warplanes last year after Israel and the United States accused the Syrians of building a nuclear reactor there.

Syria adamantly denies having any kind of nuclear programme.

Mr Heinonen, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was speaking on his arrival back in Vienna following a three-day trip to Syria.

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
map
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

"It was a good start, but there's still work that remains to be done," he said.

"For this trip we did what we agreed to. We achieved what we wanted on this first trip. We took samples which we wanted to take. Now it's time to analyse them."

Mr Heinonen also said he was generally satisfied with the level of co-operation by Syria.

In April, Washington released pictures purporting to show North Korean experts inside the construction, which it said closely resembled a North Korean reactor at Yongbyon.

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

Syrian officials have said the bombed site was an unused military facility under construction, but deny that it had anything to do with a nuclear programme.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has criticised both what he saw as a US delay in releasing information on the Syrian site and Israel's bombing of the site before his agency could inspect it.



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