U.S., Russia clash over Syria reactor at U.N. nuclear meeting

U.S., Russia clash over Syria reactor at U.N. nuclear meeting
# 09 September 2013 17:49 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. U.S.-Russian tensions over Syria spilled into a U.N. nuclear watchdog meeting on Monday when the two clashed over whether inspectors should analyze possible risks involved if a reactor near Damascus were to be hit during U.S.-led strikes, APA reports quoting Reuters.

Russia said last week any military action against Syria's government could have catastrophic effects if a research reactor near the Syrian capital that contains radioactive uranium was struck "by design or by chance".

Russia's Foreign Ministry called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to urgently assess the issue with the United States preparing for punitive strikes in Syria over an alleged poison gas attack in its civil war.

But in a statement to an IAEA board of governors meeting on Monday, where Moscow reiterated its demand, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Macmanus made Washington's objections clear.

"It is our view that requests for comprehensive risk analyses of hypothetical scenarios are beyond the IAEA's statutory authority," he said, according to a copy of his speech in the closed-door session.

The IAEA "must determine whether there is a scientific basis for conducting a highly speculative investigation of this kind," Macmanus added.

Moscow is the Syrian government's most powerful ally and main arms supplier and has blocked U.N. Security Council action sought by Western powers to stop Syria's war and bring about a political transition. The West has backed the two-and-a-half-year old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said the U.N. agency was considering the Russian request, describing it as a "complicated issue" with technical, political as well as legal aspects.

Russia had asked for a quick response but "I hope people understand that it takes time," Amano told a news conference.

"The views are divided so far," he said about statements made on the issue by Russia, the United States and Cuba during the board meeting, which is due to end on Friday and will also debate Iran and other topical nuclear matters.