A senior Syrian official has all but ruled out new visits by UN inspectors probing allegations that his country had a covert program that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
Syrian refusal to allow inspections could doom the International Atomic Energy Agency's efforts to follow up US assertions that a site bombed by Israel last year was a nearly finished reactor that could have produced plutonium.
Syria allowed the IAEA to visit the site near the desert town of Al Kibar in June but has since turned down requests for more inspections.
"We will not allow another visit," Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria's atomic agency, said yesterday.
He said the IAEA had agreed with Syria that there would be only one visit. The IAEA has said it agreed to make one initial visit, but has requested others.
The IAEA has said it suspects three other sites may have been nuclear-related and linked to the bombed location.
Othman described the three sites as (non-nuclear) "military bases" that could not be visited by outsiders, although higher Syrian authorities could decide otherwise.
An IAEA report this week heightened concerns about Al Kibar, saying that satellite imagery and other evidence showed it had the characteristics of a nuclear reactor. It also said that soil samples taken from the bombed site had a "significant number" of chemically processed natural uranium particles.
A senior UN official, who demanded anonymity because the information was restricted, said the findings were unusual for a facility that Syria alleges had no nuclear purpose. But Othman dismissed the findings.