Press Release

Gillibrand, Kyl Lead Bipartisan Coalition Of 25 Members Of Congress Calling For Int’l Atomic Energy Agency To Conduct Special Nuclear Inspections In Syria

Mar 4, 2011

Washington, DC – As Syria denies access to U.N. nuclear inspectors, and with mounting concerns over Syria’s suspected nuclear activities at the Dair Alzour site and other possible locations, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) led a bipartisan effort of 25 Members of Congress today in urging Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency to bring transparency to the state of Syria’s nuclear program. In advance of the IAEA’s March meeting next week, the Senators called on the agency to insist on special inspections in Syria to uncover the truth on its potential nuclear development. Syria has obstructed two years of investigations into its nuclear activities.

“Syria’s refusal to allow international inspectors entry to suspected nuclear sites is alarming for the security of America, Israel, and all of our allies,” Senator Gillibrand said. “If we’re going to keep America and our allies safe, we need to know the status of Syria’s nuclear activities, and Syria needs to know that there will be consequences if they are engaging in illicit nuclear activities.”

“Syria must live up to its international agreements and allow IAEA nuclear inspectors direct and unfettered access,” said Senator Ensign.  “Syria’s past actions and its continued disregard of agreements that require transparency of its nuclear practices lead to the conclusion that it is fostering illegal nuclear programs. If Syria continues to deny access to its facilities, the IAEA must step in and conduct special nuclear inspections to ensure it is not engaging in activities that threaten the safety of our country and our allies.” 

Reports indicate Syria is harboring a uranium conversion reactor. Syria allowed IAEA inspectors access to the Dair Alzour site once in 2008, but has denied all subsequent requests. According to commercial satellite photos, a second suspected nuclear installation has been identified in Syria.

The full letter signed by Senators Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), John Ensign (R-NV), Ron Wyden (D-OR), James Inhofe (R-OK), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), David Vitter (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Barrasso (R-WY), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mike Johanns (R-NE), James Risch (R-ID), Richard Burr (R-NC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Representatives Fortenberry (R-NE), Edward Markey (D-MA), Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ted Deutsch (D-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA) to Director General Amano is below:

Dear Director General Amano:

We share your concern about the suspected nuclear activities at the Dair Alzour site and possibly other locations in Syria, as outlined in your most recent report on the Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic.  Given the Syrian Foreign Minister’s evasion of your direct request for access to all necessary information and locations, we propose that you give urgent consideration to using your authority to call for “special inspections” in Syria.

As a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Syria is legally obligated by its NPT-required IAEA safeguards agreement to make correct and complete declarations of its nuclear materials and related nuclear facilities and equipment.  We recognize that Syria has agreed to an inspection of the Homs facility; however, even if Syria were to allow the level of access you have requested, which seems unlikely, such an action would still not adequately address the international community’s concerns over Syria’s nuclear efforts. Without direct and unfettered inspections, the IAEA cannot dismiss the evidence you have cited in your report that the Dair Azour site is a nuclear facility, including: the features of the building and its connectivity to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water, the involvement of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission (AECS), the inconsistency between end use information provided by the AECS and other information available to IAEA, and the type of uranium particles found in samples taken during the IAEA’s June 2008 visit to the site.

We agree with you that “after two years of investigations constrained by Syria’s lack of cooperation, it is critical that Syria positively engage with the Agency on these issues without further delay.” As you are aware, Article 72 of Syria’s safeguards agreement permits special inspections “[i]f the Agency considers that information made available by the State, including explanations from the State and information obtained from routine inspections, is not adequate for the Agency to fulfil its responsibilities under the Agreement.”  In light of the Syrian Foreign Minister’s refusal to address the Agency’s concerns and the latest in Syria’s apparent efforts to hinder the IAEA’s efforts to carry out its verification activities, we are concerned that Syria’s recalcitrance, if it continues unabated, will cause lasting harm to the credibility if the IAEA safeguards regime.

As a bi-partisan group of the U.S. Congress, we urge you to take this next step in order to bolster the safeguards regime and bring transparency to the state of Syria’s nuclear program.