Page last updated at 22:33 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 23:33 UK

Syria rebuffs nuclear inspectors

Undated image released by the CIA of the alleged nuclear facility in Syria
Syria has dismissed allegations of a secret nuclear programme

The head of Syria's nuclear programme has said that the country's military sites will remain off-limits to international nuclear inspectors.

Damascus said it would co-operate with an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inquiry only if it did not threaten its national security.

The watchdog is investigating claims of a secret Syrian nuclear programme.

Syria's announcement comes after it dropped a bid to win a place on the board of the IAEA.

The IAEA investigation follows US allegations that Damascus was close to completing a nuclear reactor at a secret location, which was bombed by Israel last year.

Syria has denied the allegations as "ridiculous".

Ibrahim Othman told the IAEA that his government was "co-operating with the agency in full transparency".

"However, this co-operation will not be in any way at the expense of disclosing our military sites or causing a threat to our national security," he added.

'Good co-operation'

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

On Friday, Syria dropped its bid for a place on the IAEA board, leaving the post open to Western-backed Afghanistan.

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

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

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.

A Syrian officer reported to have been in charge of facilitating the IAEA probe was killed in unexplained circumstances last summer, further delaying the proceedings.

On Wednesday Iran, also accused by some countries of clandestine nuclear activity, dropped its bid for a seat on the IAEA board, saying it wanted to make way for regional ally Syria to join instead.

Syria gives way in IAEA contest
03 Oct 08 |  Middle East
Iran backs Syria at nuclear body
01 Oct 08 |  Middle East
Q&A: Syria, Iran and the US
18 Feb 05 |  Middle East
Iran pushed for nuclear answers
22 Sep 08 |  Middle East
Syria back in international fold
04 Sep 08 |  Middle East
Timeline: IAEA
17 Sep 08 |  Europe

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