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Syrian opposition to cooperate with UN in probing use of chemical weapons

August 07, 2013, 21:55 UTC+3
The Syrian opposition stated its readiness to cooperate with the U.N. team of inspectors set up at Damascus’ request in March of this year
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Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

Photo EPA/ITAR-TASS

UNITED NATIONS, August 7 (Itar-Tass) - The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces has invited the United Nations to investigate alleged uses of chemical weapons in regions controlled by opposition groups.

The Syrian opposition stated its readiness to cooperate with the U.N. team of inspectors set up at Damascus’ request in March of this year.

“Both the Syrian coalition and the Supreme Military Council stand ready to cooperate with representatives of the [U.N.] Mission and would be glad to welcome investigators of the United Nations Organisation in all opposition-controlled districts,” Najib Ghadban, who refers to himself as “the representative of the Syrian coalition in the U.N.,” said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The letter, published in the U.N. electronic register of documents, was handed over to the U.N. secretary-general by the French Mission in the United Nations as the Syrian opposition has no status in the Organisation.

The spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General, Martin Nesirky, said in early August that apart from its leader, Swedish Professor Ake Sellstrom, the team of inspectors will include about 10 experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organisation.

“The Mission will travel to Syria as soon as possible to contemporaneously investigate three of the reported incidents, including Khan al-Asal,” Nesirky said.

He said that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “remains mindful of other reported incidents and the Mission will also continue to seek clarification from the Member States concerned.”

The experts are now in The Hague, all set and ready to go to Syria. The last preparations for the investigation are to be completed within the next several days, the spokesperson said.

By agreement with the official Syrian authorities, the U.N. Mission will run its investigation in three places. They have not been named so far. The U.N. Secretariat has cited security reasons for not disclosing the details of the upcoming investigation of the purported use of chemical weapons in Syria for security reasons.

However one of the places to be visited by the U.N. experts is already known. It is Aleppo’s suburb of Khan Al-Asal. The other two have not been revealed.

In his message to the U.N. secretary-general, Ghadban, who holds a PhD in Political Science from the City University of New York and is currently a Professor of Political Science at the University of Arkansas, said Khan Al-Asal had recently been “freed by the opposition” and asked the U.N. Mission to take urgent measures to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in this area.

However he did not mention the fact that the rebels had executed some 150 people, including captured Syrian Army soldiers and civilians sympathising with the authorities, after taking the town.

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Bashar al-Jaafari said last week that the massacre aimed to “get rid of the witnesses who could have testified in the U.N. Secretariat and directly pointed at those who used chemical weapons.”

Ghadban used the opportunity to accuse the Syrian government of “trampling upon international law” but did not say a word about bloody terrorist acts and violence committed by opposition militants virtually every day.

The U.N. Secretariat has already received 13 reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

On July 11, U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane and Swedish Professor Ake Sellstrom, the head of the team probing the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, accepted the Syrian government’s invitation to visit Damascus for talks on carrying out the investigation.

Sellstrom and Kane agreed to accept the Syrian government’s invitation to visit Damascus with a view to completing the consultations on the modalities of cooperation required for the proper, safe and efficient conduct of the investigation.

The focus of the mission, set up following a formal request from the Syrian government, will be an incident involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in Kfar Dael region in Khan Al-Asal area in Aleppo governorate, the U.N. said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had repeatedly urged Damascus to grant the team access to the country so that it can carry out an on-the-ground investigation into the allegations.

He welcomed Damascus’ invitation to visit Syria to investigate reports about alleged use of chemical weapons in the country.

The invitation to come to Syria was made by Syrian Permanent Representative to the U.N. Bashar Ja’afari and addressed to the U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane and Swedish Professor Ake Sellstrom, who is investigating alleged use of chemical weapons in the country.

“This invitation confirms the openness of the Syrian government and its commitment to cooperation with the United Nations Organisation in search for the truth hidden behind allegations about the use of chemical weapons,” he said.

“The Secretary-General welcomes the offer of the Government of Syria to continue discussions on the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. He remains seriously concerned about all allegations on the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Nesirky said.

“Cooperation from Syria in this regard will be essential for the Mission to establish facts in a credible manner regarding any use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Nesirky said.

In late June, UK Permanent Representative to the U.N. Mark Lyall Grant told ITAR-TASS that London, Washington and Paris had provided the U.N. with information about ten instances of alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian authorities against rebels.

The U.N. probe into an alleged chemical attack in Aleppo, started at Damascus’ initiative, came to a halt after Western countries had pushed the U.N. Secretariat towards looking into other such instances as well. The Syrian authorities had insisted that U.N. experts should first visit Aleppo and only then, if they prove their impartiality, could they investigate other instances. As a result of the explosion of a homemade rocket with sarin in the area controlled by governmental troops near Aleppo on March 19 of this year, 26 people died, including 16 Syrian army troops. The rest were civilians.

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