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UN SC to hold urgent meeting on alleged chemical attack in Syria

August 21, 2013, 20:32 UTC+3

U.N. chemical weapons experts started working in Syria on Monday, August 19

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UNITED NATIONS, August 21 (Itar-Tass) - The U.N. Security Council will convene on Wednesday, August 21. For an urgent meeting following new reports about alleged chemical attacks in Syria, the Russian Mission to the U.N. told ITAR-TASS.

U.N. chemical weapons experts started working in Syria on Monday, August 19.

The team will work in Syria for up to two weeks. This period can be extended by mutual consent, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

“The Mission will contemporaneously investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons reported by the Government of Syria at Khan al-Asal as well as two other allegations of the use of chemical weapons reported by Member States,” Ban said.

“In order to credibly establish the facts, the Mission must have full access to the sites of the alleged incidents. This includes access to the reported sites to undertake the necessary analyses and to collect samples. It also includes interviews and examination of witnesses, victims, attending medical personnel as well as the conduct of post-mortem examinations,” the secretary-general said.

On August 14, Syria agreed to receive U.N. inspectors for a probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the country. By agreement with the Syrian government they will investigate three such instances at the same time.

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 would include about 10 experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organisation.

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.

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

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.

Ban 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.

“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.

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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