UN Examines Possible Syria-Pakistan Nuke Ties

AQ Khan may have helped Damascus in quest for nuclear bomb
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 2, 2011 9:00 AM CDT
UN Examines Possible Syria-Pakistan Nuke Ties
This satellite image provided by GeoEye shows a facility in Al-Hasakah, Syria, that IAEA investigators say closely matches plans for a uranium enrichment plant sold by AQ Khan.   (AP Photo/GeoEye Satellite Image)

Satellite images have provided UN investigators with fresh evidence that the Syrian government once worked with AQ Khan, the world's most prolific nuclear weapons merchant. The images reveal that a complex in northwest Syria appears to match Khan's designs for a uranium enrichment plant that were sold to Moammar Gadhafi's government. The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency also has obtained correspondence between Khan and a Syrian government official, who proposed scientific cooperation and a visit to Khan's laboratories following Pakistan's successful nuclear test in 1998. Khan is known as the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb.

Investigators don't believe Syria was ever close to building a nuclear bomb, and there is no evidence it still has a secret program. The complex, in the city of Al-Hasakah, now appears to be used as a cotton-spinning plant. But the unlikely coincidence in design suggests Syria may have been pursuing two routes to an atomic bomb: uranium as well as plutonium. IAEA investigators had already said they believe that a Syrian site bombed by Israeli warplanes in 2007 was a plutonium production reactor. (More Syria stories.)

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