Nuclear agency to report Syria to Security Council

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Syria is to be reported to the UN Security Council over its alleged nuclear programme, four years after Israeli jets destroyed what is believed by the West to have been a secret atomic reactor.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted 17 to six in favour of the measure, which follows Syria's consistent refusal to allow inspectors to assess the contentious site at Deir el-Zour in the country's remote north-eastern desert.

Glyn Davis, the chief US envoy to the IAEA, said that Syria's attempt to build a "secret, undeclared plutonium production reactor" was "one of the most serious safeguards violations possible".

While the vote passed comfortably in terms of numbers, it proved divisive despite the ongoing state repression of pro-democracy protesters, which led to thousands of Syrians fleeing into Turkey in fear of a military assault yesterday. As well as the six countries that voted against – among which were China and Russia – 11 of the 35 nations on the IAEA abstained, with another not present.

This was also true at the UN Security Council yesterday, where Russia hinted that it could veto a resolution condemning the regime's violence.

* A French television network yesterday admitted that it was duped into reporting a hoax story about the defection of a Syrian minister, the latest case of mistaken identity during reporting of the anti-government movement in Syria, where the media are heavily censored.

France 24 ran a story on Tuesday quoting a woman who said she was the Syrian ambassador, Lamia Shakkour. The woman said she was quitting her post in protest at the Syrian regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protests, with more than 1,300 people reported killed in weeks of unrest. But yesterday, the channel said it "did not doubt" that Ms Shakkour was a "victim" of the hoax.

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