Model Tuuli Shipster arrives by boat to deliver the latest James Bond novel, Sebastian Faulks' Devil May Care. (Getty Images: Dan Kitwood) -- [I just liked this photo for this story. - c]
Covert marine operation uncovers Syria's return to plutonium production
In the face of Damascus' refusal to allow UN inspectors access to three suspect "research laboratories, Western agents recently carried out a daring covert operation to collect water samples from the Orontes river in Syria where it drains into the Mediterranean. Their discoveries were presented to a closed session of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency's board on Nov. 27-28.
Situated on the river bank near Homs is one of the three research institutes where Syrian, Iranian and North Korean technicians and scientists are suspected of reprocessing plutonium for Syria's clandestine military nuclear program. The Orentes samples confirmed the suspicion that Syria has gone back to the plutonium project which was cut short when Israeli destroyed its reactor at Al Kibar in September 2007.
The Orontes rises at Tal al Musa north of Damascus and south of Homs. It flows into the sea near Antakya, which is north of Latakiya and west of Aleppo, not far from the Turkish border.
Orontes River, Syria
The IAEA board was told in general terms how the tainted river samples were obtained. Western nuclear technicians collected them from a boat which sailed surreptitiously up to the river mouth in Syria. To make sure of their finding, they collected river water on three different dates in the last two months.
Their discovery tied in with a separate report reaching the nuclear watchdog board that Iran and North Korea were frantically drafting in nuclear specialists to help Syria revive its plutonium reprocessing project. The product is to be stored in protected hideouts.
It was the view of some board members that Tehran and Pyongyang had determined to prove that the Israeli attack had not put Syria off its nuclear program. Both were even more insistent on showing the world that the Iranian nuclear program of which the Syrian project was a part was unstoppable.
Syria and North Korea accordingly renewed their clandestine nuclear cooperation accord on Oct. 22, assuring an uninterrupted flow from Pyongyang of nuclear materials, technology and experts for Syria's covert nuclear facilities. -- DEBKAfile
This undated image released by the U.S. Government shows a Syrian nuclear reactor under construction in Syria. The White House on April 24, 2008 broke its official silence on the mysterious September 6, 2007 Israeli air strike. "We are convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria's covert nuclear activities," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement. The statement came after intelligence officials briefed U.S. lawmakers about the Syrian nuclear facility that was destroyed by Israel last year. Photo: Dailylife: Reuter's Pictures.