UNITED NATIONS, (AP) – The United Nations said Thursday action would be taken against the interpreter responsible for an erroneous report that Syria has a nuclear facility and expressed regret at the incident.
Syria denied that one of its representatives told the U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee on Tuesday that Israel had attacked a Syrian nuclear facility. It said the representative was misquoted, demanded a correction, and insisted that “such facilities do not exist in Syria.”
After more than seven hours of investigation Wednesday, U.N. officials agreed the Syrian delegate was misquoted. “There was no use of the word nuclear,” U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said.
The mistake made headlines in the Middle East and heightened concerns over Damascus’ nuclear ambitions. Those ambitions were under scrutiny following a Sept. 6 Israeli airstrike on an unknown target in northeastern Syria near the border with Turkey. Widespread reports say it may have been a nascent nuclear facility, a claim Syria has denied.
According to the corrected text, the Syrian representative said: “…the (entity) that is ranking number four among the exporters of lethal weapons in the world; that which violates the airspace of sovereign states and carries out military aggression against them, like what happened on Sept. 6 against my country, such entity with all those characteristics and even more, has no right for its representative to go on lying without shame…”
The Syrian representative spoke in Arabic, but Haq said Thursday the problem wasn’t the result of the interpretation from Arabic. An interpreter who worked from Arabic into French was fairly accurate, he said.
The problem occurred because of another interpreter, who was listening to the French and then interpreting into English, Haq said.
“Action will be taken against that freelance interpreter to the fullest extent of the U.N. rules and regulations,” Haq said, refusing to comment further on what that action might be.