Syria receives UN chemical weapons inspectors to investigate

Weapons inspectors

Newscast Media DAMASCUS—A senior United Nations team tasked with investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syrian conflict arrived in Damascus on Wednesday to discuss with government officials a possible inquiry into such attacks, AP reported.

This is the first such trip by international experts and the talks are expected to be thorny — focusing on about a dozen incidents in which chemical arms were allegedly used. The militants, the United States, France and Britain, have accused the Syrian government of using weapons of mass destruction, while Damascus and its ally Russia have blamed the insurgents for such attacks.

The team was invited by the Syrian government to discuss the terms of a possible probe.

Damascus has requested the UN to investigate only one of the reported attacks — a March 19 incident in the northern village of Khan al-Assal in which both rebels and the government accuse each other of using chemicals weapons — but refused inquiries into other alleged attack sites in the central city of Homs, Damascus and elsewhere.

UN officials have called on Assad’s government to grant the United Nations team unfettered access to investigate all allegations of possible chemical weapon use. Swedish chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom and UN disarmament chief Angela Kane arrived from neighboring Lebanon for a two day visit, during which they are to meet with senior Syrian officials, the UN said in a brief statement issued in the Syrian capital.

On July 9, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations said that firsthand evidence shows that militants, and not the Syrian army, manufactured sarin nerve gas and used it during an attack near the city of Aleppo in March.

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that Russian experts collected samples at the site of the attack in the region of Khan al-Assal, where over two dozen people, including 16 Syrian troops, died on March 19.

The samples were examined at a laboratory in Russia which is certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the results of the analysis prove that a missile fired by the militants was filled with sarin, he stated. Britain, France, and the United States have accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons. Damascus has denied the charges, saying it was actually the militants who used chemical weapons on several occasions.

On June 13, US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes claimed in a White House statement that the Syrian government “has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale” against the foreign-backed militants “multiple times in the last year.”

In response, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said, “The White House published a statement full of lies about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, based on fabricated information, through which it is trying to hold the Syrian government responsible for such use.”

On June 15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the materials collected by the Obama administration allegedly proving that Syrian troops used chemical weapons would not meet the requirements of the Hague-based OPCW.

Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to the UN, more than 90,000 people have been killed and millions of others displaced in the violence. Damascus says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

Source: Tehran Times