UN Fact-Finding Mission Head Agrees to Travel to Syria

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The head of the U.N. fact-finding mission on possible chemical weapons use in Syria, has accepted an invitation from the Syrian government to visit the country, the UN press service said.

During the visit, Ake Sellstrom, along with UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, will discuss the possibilities on investigation into mutual claims of chemical weapons use in Syria. The date of the visit is unknown.

Until recently, the chief UN chemical weapons inspector and his team were unable to travel to Syria because of disputes over the scope of access they would have. The Syrian government said it would permit inspectors to travel to Aleppo, the site of the reported March 19 attack, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon insisted on probing all credible chemical attack reports.

Earlier reports by foreign experts claimed that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on several occasions during the two-year conflict.

The announcement comes shortly after Russia said it had submitted to the UN its report, which indicates the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian opposition during the Aleppo attack. The comprehensive study of soil samples taken from the site of a reported chemical attack determines that the nerve agent sarin was used and that the projectile that carried it was not “industrially manufactured,” Russia’s envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin said.

The US already said it was doubtful of Russia’s findings.

“I understand we just received the report this morning. We’ll of course need time to review it,” Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “The United States continues to have no reliable corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has used chemical weapons.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended the report on Wednesday, saying that the evidence had been analyzed by Russian experts in line with the criteria of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

 

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