U.N. says no formal Syria request for chemical weapon inquiry

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The United Nations said Wednesday that Syria has made no formal request for a U.N. investigation into government claims that opposition rebels have used chemical weapons.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky appeared to counter a statement by Syria's U.N. envoy Bashar Jaafari that Syria had asked for the “independent” inquiry into the claims.

Nesirky said he had briefed Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Jaafari's comments to reporters. “I think we will have something further to say once we have received a formal request which we have so far not received,” Nesirky told reporters.

Syria's regime and rebels on Wednesday called for international investigations into an alleged chemical weapons attack in the country’s northern province of Aleppo.

Ja'afari told reporters Wednesday morning that he had just requested the U.N. secretary-general to appoint an independent mission to investigate the attack.

He said he had requested Ban on behalf of the Syrian government “to form a specialized, independent and neutral technical mission to investigate the use by the terrorist groups operating in Syria of chemical weapons yesterday against civilians in the town of Khan al-Assad in Aleppo.” The Syrian government refers to the rebels as “terrorists.”

Ja'afari said Syria asked the secretary-general for assistance “in a sign of good faith, good will, good intentions” to the international community, international public opinion and the Syrian people.

In the same vain, the opposition National Coalition urged a “full international investigation” into the attack on the village in Aleppo.

“The Coalition demands a full international investigation, and asks for a delegation to be sent to inquire and visit the site,” the group said in a statement.

“All evidence now indicates that the Assad regime is using these weapons against its own people. Testimonies and images from the attacks today demonstrate that these banned weapons have been used in what amounts to a crime against humanity.”

However, U.N. Security Council nations are remaining cautious about the claims.

Ban has been in touch with the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which implements the Chemical Weapons Convention, over the allegations.

“The secretary general remains convinced that the use of chemical weapons by any party under any circumstances would constitute an outrageous crime,” said Nesirky.

Ban and OPCW secretary general Ahmet Uzumcu agreed to “maintain close contacts as developments unfold,” said Nesirky.

“We simply don't have any information to corroborate, verify, substantiate” the allegations by either side, a senior U.N. diplomat said.

Bashar al-Jaafari is Assad's permanent representative to the UN and holds the ‘Joker card’ in Al Arabiya’s Lion's Den. Check out the whole interactive gallery here.