UN leak angers Damascus

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The Independent Online

Syria has reacted angrily to the leaked findings of a UN weapons inspection team which disclosed that traces of uranium were found at a suspected clandestine nuclear complex.

"The objective of this campaign of anonymous leaks is to find something to pressure Syria with. This is being turned into a political issue," the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moualem said yesterday.

His comments came after diplomats in Vienna told Reuters on Monday that particles of processed uranium turned up in test samples taken by IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors from the site in eastern Syria last June.

The director general of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, is expected to release his report on the findings next Wednesday ahead of an IAEA board meeting. Britain is on the board and Foreign Office sources did not rule out discussions of the allegations during David Miliband's visit to Damascus.

Israel bombed a site in September last year which it alleged was a reactor planned to enrich uranium for weapons production, which the Syrians deny.

Mr Moualem suggested that the Israeli bombs may have been the source of the uranium traces. But experts said depleted uranium is not commonly used in air force ordnance.

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