As Citizens Flee, Syria Draws U.N. Attention Over Alleged Reactor

The situation deteriorates as a refugee crisis piles on the I.A.E.A. referral

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The Syrian government's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators has set off a wave of immigration into Turkey, further bad news for a regime edging closer to collapse. And in yet another problem for the government, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog group has referred it to the U.N. Security Council over a suspected nuclear reactor. The Deir Alzour facility that raised the alarm at the International Atomic Energy Agency is not new to regulators. Israel bombed it in 2007, and the IAEA has been trying to investigate it since 2008. Today's vote came after some impassioned statements from U.S. ambassador Glyn Davies. The BBC reports:

According to AFP news agency, US Ambassador Glyn Davies told the closed-door assembly: "Syria's apparent attempt at constructing a covert, undeclared plutonium production reactor, a reactor with no credible peaceful purpose, represents one of the most serious safeguards violations possible."

He said the intentions of the structure at Deir Alzour were clear and that a resolution was the only responsible course of action.

"The reactor there was built for the express purpose of producing plutonium for possible use in nuclear weapons."

Syrian ambassador Bassam Al-Sabbagh "called the agency's move 'regrettable' but pledged that the country would honour its obligations." The country is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that more than 1,700 Syrians have crossed the border into Turkey, where authorities have established a second refugee camp. Much of the violence has been focused on the town of Jisr al-Shughour, where a suspected mutiny took place when troops who refused to fire on protesters were allegedly executed on Monday but where the government says terrorists assaulted troops. From Reuters:

Residents in the area said about 40 tanks and troop carriers had deployed about 7 km (4 miles) from Jisr al-Shughour, a northwestern town of 50,000 where authorities say "armed gangs" killed more than 120 security personnel earlier this week.

The protests continue throughout Syria, and while Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the unrest was "causing concern for us," he welcomed Syrian refugees. "We will always keep our doors open to our Syrian brothers and sisters," he said.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.