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UN mission to shortly leave for Syria to look into chemical weapons use

August 16, 2013, 11:44 UTC+3

It is expected that the mission will work there within two weeks

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MOSCOW, August 16 (Itar-Tass) - A UN mission to probe the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria is expected to go there within the next few days, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters on Friday.

“The Syrian government has officially confirmed its consent to receive the UN mission to investigate a possible use of chemical weapons on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, which is to go there within the next few days,” he said. “Modalities of the team’s activity have been formalised through an exchange of letters between the Syrian authorities and the UN Secretariat,” the spokesman said.

“This period may be extended in case of necessity if the sides approve that,” he said, adding that the mission would visit three sites where chemical weapons were reportedly used, including Khan al-Asal near Aleppo.

He said Moscow “welcomes the agreement in principle to launch work by a team of international experts in Syria, which, although with a certain delay, opens the way to a thorough and objective investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons on the Syrian territory.”

Earlier, the UN Secretariat said a group of inspectors could arrive in Damascus on Friday. They refused to disclose details of the trip for considerations of security.

The Secretariat said it had co-ordinated with Damascus the terms of the mission’s activity.

U.N. deputy spokesperson Farhan Hak explained that the inspectors would act independently from the United Nations Secretariat. According to him, the United Nations secretary-general has authorised Professor Ake Sellstrom, the head of the chemical weapons team, to make independent decisions on which places should be inspected.

August 14, the United Nations Secretariat announced that it had agreed the terms of the mission’s work with Damascus. The chemical weapons inspectors will investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons during the Syrian conflict. Under an agreement with the Syrian authorities, the experts will stay in Syria for two weeks to study three assumed chemical attacks, including the one in Khan al-Assal, an outskirt of Aleppo. The Syrian and Russian authorities claim that the Syrian militants used nervous gas Sarin in Khan al-Assal on March 19. Initially, Damascus had asked to investigate that incident.

The inspectors will talk to chemical attack victims, to the doctors who examined the victims and witnesses. After that, the experts will submit a report that will contain pure facts. The United Nations Secretariat has stressed it many times that the investigation’s objective is to establish whether chemical weapons was used in Syria rather than blaming one of the parties in conflict.

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