U.N. experts leave Damascus at end of chemical weapons probe

Ake Sellstrom (C, wearing cap) was the head of a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team. (Reuters)

United Nations weapons inspectors left Damascus on Saturday, marking the end of their probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

It may be two weeks before for final results are ready of an analysis of samples experts collected at the site of a chemical weapons attack last week in Syria are ready, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the five permanent Security Council members on Friday.

The 13 inspectors, led by Ake Sellstrom, left Syria and arrived in Lebanon on Saturday, Reuters news agency reported.

Washington said that 1,429 people, including 426 children, had died in a chemical attack launched by the regime of Bashar al-Assad last week.

Angela Kane, the U.N. disarmament envoy who had visited Syria with the UN experts, is expected to brief U.N. secretary general Bank Ki-moon in New York later Saturday.

The departure of the U.N. experts heightened expectations of a possible international military strike against the regime, according to AFP news agency.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday that he is considering a “narrow” and “limited” attack on Syria. Obama said the ground forces would not take part in the attack.

Obama stressed that the main goal of an operation would be uphold the international norm that using chemical weapons is a red line. He said the conflict in Syria should be ultimately resolved diplomatically.

Obama’s efforts to put together an international coalition to support military action have been more down than up.

French President Francois Hollande has endorsed punitive strikes, and told the newspaper Le Monde that the “chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished.”

But British Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempt to win a vote of approval in Parliament for military action ended in ignominious defeat on Thursday. American attempts to secure backing at the United Nations have been blocked by Russia, long an ally of Syria.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:40 - GMT 06:40
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