CAIRO, Egypt – The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief urged Syria on Friday to show "transparency" and cooperate with inspectors from the world agency visiting the Mideast country this weekend.
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It marks the start of an international fact check of U.S. and Israeli assertions that Damascus had tried to build a plutonium-producing facility under the radar of the international community.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, told the pan-Arab Al-Arabiya Television that he hoped Syria will let IAEA inspectors visit "all locations" they are interested in.
Syria said earlier this month it won't allow IAEA to probe beyond a site bombed by Israel last September, despite IAEA's expressed eagerness to visit three other suspect locations.
"We will go (to Syria) with open eyes and we will observe the facts ... All I ask of Syria is to show absolute transparency and help" the IAEA probe, ElBaradei said in the interview, aired late Friday.
"I hope that Syria will take us to all the locations," where allegedly there could be other reactors, ElBaradei added.
His remarks reflected IAEA hopes that Syria could still warm to giving IAEA access to the three other sites. The main focus on the agency's three-day visit that begins Sunday is the Al Kibar facility — a building in the country's remote eastern desert that was destroyed in September by Israeli jets.
ElBaradei again rebuked Israel for the bombing. "Before (Israel's) hitting Syria ... we could have had the time to go to Syria to investigate and learn of any covert Syrian reactor," ElBaradei said.
In the interview, part of which was aired earlier this week, ElBaradei also said that his agency doesn't have evidence Syria possesses the fuel or technical know-how for a large-scale nuclear plant.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has repeatedly denied that his country has a secret nuclear program.
Israel has never officially confirmed September's air strike on Al Kibar, though it has not disputed the foreign reports, or U.S. government comments, on the incident.