A CIA image shows the alleged covert nuclear reactor in Syria's eastern desert after it was bombed by Israel

The UN atomic watchdog has voted to report Syria to the UN Security Council over allegations it was building an undeclared nuclear reactor that was then destroyed by Israeli bombs, diplomats have said.

At a closed-door meeting of the 35-member board of governors of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 17 countries voted in favour of a corresponding resolution by the US and six against.

Russia and China were among those who voted no. There were 11 abstentions and one country was absent from the vote, diplomats said.

Ministers from the IAEA's 35 governing members have been meeting since Monday to discuss a raft of issues ranging from the disaster at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to a lack of satisfactory co-operation from member states, including Syria and Iran.

In a key report before this week's meeting, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said Syria should have declared the Dair Alzour site, which was destroyed by Israeli warplanes in 2007.

The IAEA has been frustrated since 2008 in repeated attempts to follow up on further evidence regarding the site.

Based on that report, the US, backed by 12 allies, drew up the referral to bring Syria before the UN Security Council, insisting that that the reputation of the IAEA, set up by the UN to enforce the peaceful use of nuclear energy, was at stake.

"Syria's nuclear intentions at Dair Alzour are clear; the reactor there was built for the express purpose of producing plutonium for possible use in nuclear weapons," Glyn Davis, the chief US envoy to the IAEA, said.

He went on to accuse Syria of "choosing to actively hinder the investigation by denying access, providing incomplete and misleading information, sanitising multiple locations, and refusing to respond substantively to the agency's requests for further information and access".

The US said the board consequently had no choice but to find Syria in violation of its safeguard agreements and report it to the UN Security Council.

The Russians have called the referral "untimely and not objective," in a statement to the IAEA board.

They said the evidence against Syria was hypothetical and based on "possible alleged insufficiencies".

Source: Agencies