- NICOSIA - Syria acknowledged
Wednesday night that it seeks to restore its nuclear program.
- The Syrian announcement came hours after Washington disclosed
that North Korea has violated an agreement to halt the production of highly-enriched
uranium and has several nuclear weapons.
- Syria is also a major client of North Korea and last
week signed a deal for scientific and technology exchange with Pyongyang.
Pyongyang is a leading supplier of missiles and weapons of mass destruction
technology to Damascus.
- But the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad said
the program would be limited to civilian uses. In a statement, the Foreign
Ministry said on late Wednesday that the purpose of its nuclear program
would be for research and medical needs.
- In the early 1990s, Syria tried to construct a nuclear
reactor with Argentina. U.S. pressure on Buenos Aires halted the deal.
- The ministry said Syria was one of the first countries
in the Middle East to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1969.
The statement said the International Atomic Energy Agency conducted an
inspection of nuclear sites in 1995.
- Western diplomatic sources said the Syrian announcement
is in response to U.S. concern over efforts by Damascus to revive its nuclear
program. The sources said the United States has been concerned over negotiations
by Syria for the purchase of a Russian nuclear reactor.
- North Korea admitted this month that it was producing
nuclear weapons material.
- "North Korea, for several years, has been trying
to enrich uranium, and the only purpose for doing that is to develop nuclear
weapons," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday.
- "The attempt to enrich uranium for the purpose of
developing nuclear weapons is a very serious concern that we have. We've
long been concerned about their weapons of mass destruction program. We've
also been concerned about their ties to terrorism."
- U.S. officials said they were concerned that the North
Korean admission meant that Pyongyang will or has exported nuclear technology
and material to such states as Iran, Libya and Syria. North Korea has numerous