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Middle East
Syria air-raid site 'cleared'
Satellite images show a suspected nuclear reactor bombed by Israel has been razed.
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2007 15:33 GMT
The satellite image of the alleged reactor was taken seven weeks after an Israeli raid on the site
The site of a suspected nuclear-reactor project in Syria has been cleared since it was bombed by Israeli aircraft last month, new images taken by a commercial satellite show.
 
An image captured on Wednesday by a DigitalGlobe satellite shows tractors or bulldozers in the area where the alleged facility stood before the Israeli raid on September 6.
"[Syria] took down this facility so quickly it looks like they are trying to hide something," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, which analysed the images.
 
Damascus says Israel violated its airspace in an attack on an unused military facility.
Quick demolition
 
DigitalGlobe's satellites captured four images of the site on four recent days - August 10, 15, 28 and October 24.

"The images are not definitive and they do not prove that it was a nuclear reactor, but there are some strong resemblances to one"

James Acton, specialist in nuclear affairs at Kings College, London

Chuck Herring, a spokesman for DigitalGlobe, would not say whether the company took the images after being requested to do so by a customer.

The image also shows what appears to be a channel which may have once been filled with pipelines running from a water pumping station to the suspected reactor building.

Albright said Syria may have levelled the area quickly because the Israeli raid destroyed the roof, leaving the contents of the buildings open to spy aircraft and satellites.

He said the fact that a roof was built so soon over the new building suggests that it was a reactor being built with the help of North Korea.

"From what we understand, North Korea builds reactors in an old-fashioned way; the roof goes on early."

More modern reactors leave the roof until last to allow large cranes to lift heavy equipment into place, he said.

Inconclusive images

James Acton, specialist in nuclear affairs at Kings College, London, told Al Jazeera that while the images suggested a nuclear reactor had been at the surveyed site, they were not conclusive.

"If it was a nuclear reactor it was only at an early stage of construction. The images are not definitive and they do not prove that it was a nuclear reactor, but there are some strong resemblances to one," he said.

Acton said that the dimensions of the building surveyed by the commercial satellite were similiar to those of a reactor building in North Korea, but added that this did not fully prove involvement from Pyongyang.

He said: "The evidence that the North Koreans have supplied Syria with a reactor is fairly circumstantial at the moment… [the images] are is not conclusive evidence."

Earlier commercial images taken by SPOT Image, another commercial imagery company, suggested that building work at the suspected reactor site had been going on for at least a year, Albright said.

Syria, a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, currently has one small nuclear research reactor that operates under international safeguards.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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