Russia, China oppose Syria resolution at IAEA meet

Russia and China said Thursday they would oppose a US-backed resolution against Syria at a meeting of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Washington and its Western allies have asked the 35-member board of governors of the IAEA to find Syria in "non-compliance" with its international obligations and report it to the UN Security Council in New York.

But in statements to fellow board members ahead of a vote on the matter later Thursday, both Moscow and Beijing said they saw no reason for such action.

"The UN Security Council is responsible for holding international peace and security and the site at Deir az-Zour no longer exists and therefore poses no threat to international peace and security," the Russian statement said.

"We cannot therefore agree with the resolution and that is why, if it is put to a vote, we will vote against it," it said.

China followed similar arguments, saying it saw "no reason to adopt the resolution or refer Syria to the Security Council."

Beijing did not specify, however, whether it planned to vote against the resolution or abstain from the vote.

Washington alleges that Syria was building an undeclared nuclear reactor at a remote desert site called Deir Az-Zour with North Korea's help until the site was bombed by Israeli planes in September 2007.

The IAEA began investigating the allegations in June 2008, but Syria has refused to cooperate all along and, with the exception of a one-off visit, has not allowed UN inspectors to Deir Az-Zour or related sites to verify the US claims.

Frustrated by Syria's three years of stonewalling, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano took the unprecedented step recently of stating his conviction that the site was "very likely" a covert nuclear reactor, as alleged.

The US seized on Amano's assessment and tabled a resolution to censure Damaascus at the regular June meeting of the IAEA board of governors this week.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

For live updates on the Syrian uprising, click here.