VIENNA — Russia is warning that a US strike on Syria’s atomic facilities might result in a nuclear catastrophe and is urging the UN to present a risk analysis of such a scenario.
The warning comes from Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich. He said in a statement Wednesday that a strike on a miniature reactor near Damascus or other nuclear installations could contaminate the region with radioactivity, adding: “The consequences could be catastrophic.”
IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor told the AP in an email Thursday that her agency is ready to “consider the questions raised” by Lukashevich if it receives a formal request to do so from Moscow.
Russia’s Interfax news agency says that Moscow intends to bring up the issue at next week’s 35-nation IAEA board meeting.
Meanwhile, the United Nations’ and the Arab League’s special representative to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was making his way Thursday to St-Petersburg as the G-20 summit gets underway to back up efforts by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to organize a peace conference on Syria.
“The Secretary General has just announced that the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is on his way to Russia to help him push, on the margins of the G-20 summit in Saint Petersburg, for the International Conference on Syria,” a UN spokesperson said in a statement.
Russia has been a staunch supporter of the Assad regime since the war in Syria — which began as a popular uprising — started in 2011. Moscow has rejected US claims that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons in an attack near Damascus on August 21 which the US says killed 1,429 people.
Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin have warned the West against taking any action in Syria in response to the reported attack without UN approval.
In September 2007, the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar in Deir ez-Zor region was bombed in an attack that has been widely attributed to Israel.
American intelligence later confirmed that the site was a nuclear facility with a military purpose.
In 2011, the IAEA confirmed that it was a covertly built nuclear reactor. In a news conference that year, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said: “The facility that was … destroyed by Israel was a nuclear reactor under construction,” in response to a question.
Israel has never publicly commented on the strike or even acknowledged carrying it out.
Syria had denied allegations of any covert nuclear activity or interest in developing nuclear arms.