U.N. chemical weapons inspectors preparing for Syria mission

A Syrian opposition fighter tries on a gas mask seized from an army factory in Idlib on July 18, 2013. (AFP)

U.N. weapons inspectors tasked with looking into claims of chemical weapons use in Syria are "completing their preparations" in The Hague before heading to Damascus, the United Nations said Tuesday.

"It is anticipated that these preparations will be completed within the next days, following which the date of the mission in Syria will be announced," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

The U.N. was meanwhile "working to finalize the legal and logistical modalities for the investigations on the basis of the agreement reached last month with Syria," he said.

U.N. diplomats say the inspectors should be in Syria sometime next week and will finish their work by month's end.

The U.N. team, led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, is expected to carry out inspections at three sites where chemical weapons attacks have been reported.

One of the sites is Khan al-Assal, which is near the key city of Aleppo and where a chemical weapons attack was reported in March. The other two sites are being kept confidential for security reasons.

The dozen or so inspectors are only tasked with determining whether chemical weapons have been used in the 28-month-old conflict in Syria, not who staged the attack.

The United Nations says it has been given reports on 13 suspected chemical weapons attacks during the war.

The United States and other Western nations believe chemical arms have been used in limited quantities by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The government in Damascus -- which agreed to allow access to the U.N. team last month -- has accused rebel forces of using chemical arms in Khan al-Assal. The rebels blame the army for the attack.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:41 - GMT 06:41
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