UN nuclear agency sends Syria to Security Council

By the Associated Press | June 9, 2011 | 12:44 PM EDT

The empty chair of Syria's ambassador to Austria Bassam al-Sabbagh at the start of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA's board of governors meeting at the International Center, in Vienna, Austria, on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

VIENNA (AP) — The U.N. nuclear watchdog voted Thursday to report Syria to the U.N. Security Council for violating its safeguard agreements, citing Syria's undeclared construction of a covert nuclear reactor and refusal to supply information.

The move by the International Atomic Energy Agency comes amid political protests in Syria, but Washington and its allies insist the timing of the recommendation has nothing to do with the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and is separate from an effort by European nations to have the U.N. Security Council condemn Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

"The resolution is a necessary and appropriate step in light of the troubling findings in the IAEA's latest report, including Syria's refusal of the last three years to cooperate with the investigation," Glyn Davis, the chief U.S. envoy to the IAEA, told reporters after the vote.

Ministers of the IAEA's 35 governing members have been meeting since Monday to discuss a raft of issues ranging from the disaster at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to a lack of satisfactory cooperation from member states, including Syria and Iran.