Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 16:53 UK

Syria gives way in IAEA contest

IAEA meeting
Syria's move avoids division in a body which prides itself on unity

Diplomats at the UN atomic watchdog say Syria has dropped its bid to get a place on the IAEA board, leaving the seat to Western-backed Afghanistan.

Both had been vying for the same seat on the International Atomic Energy Agency board representing the Middle East and South Asia (Mesa) group.

"For the sake of unity within the Mesa group, Syria has decided to drop its candidacy," Iran's IAEA envoy said.

The body had been facing a divisive and unprecedented vote on the issue.

On Wednesday, Iran dropped its bid to sit on the 35-member board, in favour of its regional ally Syria - which had been backed by the Arab League.

The US had strongly opposed Syria's candidature and was backing Afghanistan instead, a state whose government receives strong US military and diplomatic support.

Washington and its allies argued that Damascus was not suitable as it was being investigated over a suspected clandestine nuclear facility which was bombed by Israeli planes a year ago.

Syria has denied the allegations as "ridiculous" and has pledged to co-operate with inspectors, while stressing it would not allow national security to be compromised.

Damascus has allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the suspect site at al-Kibar in June but has refused any follow-up trips.

IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei said Syria's co-operation had been "good", but it needed to show "maximum co-operation" for the agency to draw any conclusions.

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04 Sep 08 |  Middle East
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03 Sep 08 |  Middle East
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14 Jul 08 |  Middle East
Timeline: IAEA
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