In other news coming out of Syria:
Freshly evaluated soil and air samples from a Syrian site bombed by Israel on suspicion it was a covert nuclear reactor provide enough evidence to push ahead with a U.N probe, diplomats said Tuesday.Meanwhile, DEBKAfile writes:
The findings are important after months of uncertainty about the status of the investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Preliminary results regarding environmental samples collected from the site by an IAEA team and made public earlier this year were inconclusive, adding weight to Syrian assertions that no trips beyond the initial IAEA visit in June were necessary. But the diplomats told The Associated Press that the IAEA's final evaluation, completed a few days ago, has the agency convinced it needs to press on with its investigation...
..Damascus denies running a covert program. On Tuesday, Ambassador Mohammed Badi Khattab — his country's chief IAEA delegate — told the AP he was unaware that the evaluation had been completed and could not comment until his country was told of the findings.
Ibrahim Othman, Syria's nuclear chief, has said his country would wait for final environmental results before deciding how to respond to repeated IAEA requests for follow-up visits to the one in June, when the samples were collected. Khattab repeated that stance, saying "further developments will depend on us receiving the final result."
...Beyond wanting to revisit the site bombed nearly 14 months ago by Israel, IAEA experts also want to follow up on U.S, Israeli and other intelligence that North Korea was involved in building the alleged Syrian program.
As well, IAEA officials have been seeking permission to visit three other sites purportedly linked to the alleged reactor destroyed by the Israelis — although Syria has already said that those locations are off limits because they are in restricted military areas.
Syria fears the IAEA probe could lead to a massive investigation similar to the probe Iran has been subjected to for more than five years — and to related fallout. Iran is under three sets of U.N. sanctions because of its refusal to heed Security Council demands to curb its nuclear activities.
IAEA experts came back June 25 from a four-day visit carrying environmental samples from the Al Kibar site hit by Israel. But intelligence suggests that radioactive material had not yet been introduced into the alleged reactor before it was destroyed, so swipes taken in search of radioactive traces were unlikely to have been of use.
That left the inspectors looking for other components, including minute quantities of graphite, a cooling element in the type of North Korean prototype that was allegedly being built with help from Pyongyang. Such a reactor contains hundreds of tons of graphite, and any major explosion would have sent dust over the immediate area.
But — if the Syrians were interested in a cover-up — they would have scoured the region to bury, wash away and otherwise remove any such traces.
...DEBKAfile’s military sources reported exclusively on Oct. 4 that Syria had resumed its nuclear program at installations scattered across the country and that North Korean nuclear experts were back.
According to recent American reports, a Syrian military delegation visited Pyongyang to find out whether their arms deals and nuclear collaboration were at risk as a result of Kim Jong-il’s ill health...
...According to our sources, [Deputy IAEA Chief, Olin] Heinonen has demanded access to the west bank of the Euphrates River opposite the El Kibar site, where Syria is believed to have cleared the ground of the debris left by the Israeli bombardment.
He also wants to question named army officers, engineers and technicians alleged to have been engaged in the program. Heinonen submitted to the government in Damascus a list of Syrian officials with dates on which they are suspected of having met secretly with North Korean nuclear physicists. He has asked for clarifications on the subject of those encounters.