Iran, Syria Stepping Up Nukes

A UN agency has found that Iran significantly stepped up its nuclear program. It also suspects Syria of secretly operating its own nuclear program.

Avraham Zuroff,

Iran's nuclear facilities
Iran's nuclear facilities
Israel News Photo: (file)

The UN watchdog agency on nuclear activity has found that Iran has significantly stepped up its nuclear program, and also suspects Syria of secretly operating its own nuclear program. Iran has increased its output of uranium with almost 5,000 centrifuges operating, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated in a report Friday.

According to the report obtained by the Reuters news agency, Iran has increased its enrichment of uranium, boosting its stockpile by 500 kilograms to 1,339 kilograms in the past six months.

Iran maintains that its nuclear proliferation is being developed strictly for alternative energy purposes. However, Israel and the United States, along with European and Arab countries are concerned that Iran is building nuclear weaponry, which would drastically alter the delicate military balance of the Middle East and endanger other nations of the world as well.

“There is now a forest of 7,000 machines. That’s quite a lot, it’s a very impressive pace, and they will be installing more which could mean 9,000 (soon),” a senior UN official said. “That makes it increasingly difficult to do the surveillance (to ensure no deviations for weaponry purposes). We are reviewing [the angles of] the cameras, walking rules (for workers handling equipments), where things are being kept,” the official stated on condition of anonymity.

Israel has said that it "cannot hang all hope on the IAEA in Iran," adding pointedly, "Thus officials from the international community must act determinedly and immediately to ensure that Iran cannot create a nuclear weapon.”

The IAEA also reported Friday that it has found traces of uranium at a second site in Syria. The traces are not naturally present at the site and there is concern that Syria is withholding information about its nuclear activities.

Since last year, the IAEA has been investigating allegations of illegal nuclear operations by Syria. The IAEA’s 35 members will meet on June 15 to discuss the reports on both Iran and Syria.

Israel has called on the IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei to make a thorough investigation, without political considerations or favoritism towards Syria.

The IAEA stated Saturday, “The Agency must condemn Syria for hiding facts regarding this activity."

Israel's Foreign Affairs Ministry stated that ElBaradei has so far refrained from using all the “tools at his disposal," adding that the IAEA report raises many suspicions, among them a concern about Syria’s evasiveness from responding to the IAEA’s call, which raises suspicion that Damascus is attempting to smear proofs of secret nuclear activities at the Dir A-Zur site. Israeli planes destroyed the site in a September 6, 2007 air strike, claiming that a North Korean-designed nuclear reactor was covertly being built to produce high-grade uranium, a component of nuclear weaponry. Syria has continued to deny any wrongdoings.