AP Interview: IAEA chief says no progress on Syria

International Atomic Energy Agency experts met with Syrian officials recently but were told that nothing would change the IAEA's assessment that Damascus tried to secretly build a plutonium-producing reactor, the agency's head said Friday.

"There was nothing concluded" from the talks earlier this month, which arouse from a pledge by Damascus to cooperate with an agency probe, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told The Associated Press.

He said it was now up to Syria to disprove the agency's assessment that a target destroyed in 2007 by Israeli warplanes was a nearly finished reactor built clandestinely, and meant to produce plutonium, which can be used to arm nuclear warheads .

"We have done our jobs," Amano said. "If there is further cooperation it is very nice. If not, ... the conclusion is there."

The U.N. Security Council met in closed session on July 14 to discuss the IAEA finding and some Western ambassadors said afterward that the agency's assessment has raised concerns the country violated its nonproliferation obligations.

The IAEA has tried in vain since 2008 to follow up on strong evidence that the site in the Syrian desert bombed by Israel was a nearly finished reactor built with North Korea's help.

Syria has said the facility was a non-nuclear military site.

The IAEA resolution that reported Syria to the Security Council on June 9 expressed "serious concern" over "Syria's lack of cooperation with the IAEA Director General's repeated requests for access to additional information and locations as well as Syria's refusal to engage substantively with the Agency on the nature of the Dair Alzour site."

Asked whether the popular uprising in Syria contributed to the lack of progress at the July meeting between Syrian and IAEA officials, Amano said the Syrians "didn't have an explanation to that effect, but our understanding is that they were too busy."

He said the agency was still hoping for cooperation from Damascus, but "if they don't prove otherwise, we continue to be very confident with our conclusion" that the site Israel targeted was a secret nuclear reactor.