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
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)

(Newser) – 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.

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