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Cablegate: Iaea: Syria and Iran Display "Responsible" Interest In

VZCZCXYZ0007
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUNV #0667/01 3581335
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231335Z DEC 08
FM USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8868
INFO RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 0133
RUEHII/VIENNA IAEA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEANFA/NRC WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS UNVIE VIENNA 000667

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR ISN/RA, ISN/NESS, E/CBA, AND IO/T
DOE FOR NA-1, NA-24, NE-5, AND NA-6
NRC FOR MDOANE AND JSCHWARTZMAN
USDOC FOR EXPORT CONTROL AND ITA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TRGY ENRG AORC KNNP BTIO SY IR EG
SUBJECT: IAEA: Syria and Iran Display "Responsible" Interest in
Nuclear Power

REF: (A) UNVIE 0640 (B) STATE 127468

1. (U) Summary: A December 2008 IAEA workshop on nuclear power
infrastructure reflected how governments have improved their
understanding of the complexities of developing, operating, and
regulating safe nuclear power. This technical gathering advanced
the U.S. goal of institutionalizing and improving the IAEA's growing
role in nuclear power promotion. It also, unfortunately, provided a
forum for Syria to depict itself having a benign interest in nuclear
power and for Egypt to argue against "too much" transparency in this
field. An issue for the year ahead will be how to ensure that GNEP
and IAEA efforts in this area continue to be complementary, not
duplicative. End Summary.

Pragmatic, Enthusiastic Engagement
----------------------------------
2. (U) Coming just after a meeting and infrastructure workshop
confined to Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) countries on
December 8-9, the December 10-12 IAEA-sponsored "Workshop on
Evaluation Methodology for Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development"
demonstrated the Agency's progress in institutionalizing its role in
promoting nuclear power. Over forty states, including both Syria
and Iran, attended the technical meeting, which focused on assisting
member states to prepare to address the infrastructure benchmarks
associated with the introduction of nuclear power. The conference
organizer, a U.S.-supplied Cost Free Expert at the IAEA, judged that
workshop interactions were evidence that governments had improved
their understanding of the complexities of developing, operating,
and regulating safe nuclear power. In place of past, "glib"
announcements of intent to construct nuclear power plants,
participants focused on the practicalities and years-long processes
of coordination among stakeholders, financing, human resource
development, development of regulatory structures, and planning for
waste management.

3. (U) The IAEA Secretariat used the workshop to highlight its new
document on "Evaluation of the Status of National Nuclear
Infrastructure Development," a follow-on document to its well
received "Milestones" document on national nuclear infrastructure
development released in September 2007. The workshop itself follows
the November 2007 IAEA sponsored technical meeting where the
"Milestones" document was released, and the Agency's December 2006
meeting on "Issues for the Introduction of Nuclear Power."

Roles of Iran, Syria and Egypt
------------------------------
4. (SBU) The Iranian delegation (two representatives, listed as N.
Mataji Kojouri, and M. M. Alikhani) remained fairly quiet throughout
the proceedings. Conversely, Syria's Atomic Energy Commission
Director Ibrahim Othman made several statements indicating Syria's
serious intent to pursue civil nuclear power in a transparent and
responsible manner, and potentially to have a nuclear power program
operating in Syria "in ten years." Othman posed a number of
detailed questions on the latter stages of nuclear power
development, including on nuclear power plant finance and the
handling of public opinion. Regarding Iran, Atomstroyexport's
Leonid Yanko presented several slides on Russian "lessons learned"
when dealing with new entrants to nuclear power that highlighted,
besides projects in other counties, the work Russia has done to
train Iranians to operate the Bushehr reactor (noting that training
was included in the original reactor contract).

5. (SBU) At several instances during the workshop, Egyptian delegate
Abdel Hamid questioned which of the nineteen infrastructure areas
outlined in the IAEA Milestones document were most important and
must be addressed first. The answer he consistently received from
the Secretariat was that they are all important, and none could be
avoided or deferred. In response to statements underscoring the
importance of openness and transparency made in several
presentations by both Member States and the Secretariat, Hamid
commented that "transparency is not an absolute and should take into
account a state's security environment" and requirements for
confidentiality.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: While the majority of workshop discussion covered
routine and technical material, several remarks stood out. Given
the very early stages of Syria's civil nuclear power program, and
the evidence of Syria's illicit activities, Othman's interventions
seemed an attempt to project an earnest image of responsible
interest in nuclear power and of development far beyond Syria's
current capabilities. His remarks were significant in light of the

recent debate at the IAEA Technical Assistance and Cooperation
Committee, which centered on concerns regarding a feasibility study
for a nuclear reactor in Syria while it remains under IAEA
investigation for conducting undeclared nuclear activities (ref a).
On Iran, Russia's choice of highlighting cooperation on Bushehr as a
case study for cooperation was unusual, particularly given the
growing number of other international Russian engagements that could
have been selected. This choice also conveyed an unhelpful tone of
"business as usual" with Iran. Finally, Egypt's interventions
questioning the Agency's nuclear development Milestones and the
importance of transparency and confidence building were
conspicuously out of step with the workshop's themes of responsible
long-term planning for nuclear infrastructure development. END
COMMENT.

PYATT

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