UN Chemical Team to Start Work in Syria on Monday

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A group of UN chemical weapons experts will start working in Syria on Monday.

The experts will arrive in the country on Sunday, the source said, adding that inspections would last two weeks and could be prolonged, as earlier agreed upon.

Russia has welcomed an agreement reached between the United Nations and Damascus on sending inspectors to investigate alleged chemical weapons use in Syria, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said earlier Friday.

“Moscow welcomes the principal agreements reached for the start of work of the group of international inspectors in Syria, [agreements] that, although late, pave the way for a thorough and unbiased investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

The UN team is expected to visit three sites where chemical weapons attacks allegedly occurred. One site is the town of Khan al-Assal, in Syria’s northern Aleppo province, where the Syrian government claimed rebels used chemical weapons in March. The two other locations are being kept secret for safety reasons.

Both sides in the ongoing Syrian civil war have traded allegations of chemical weapons use. The UN investigative team had been unable to travel to Syria because of diplomatic wrangling over the scope of the access they would have.

Syria said it was ready to grant the UN team access to Khan al-Assal. The UN, however, said it wanted to investigate other alleged attacks, including at Homs in western Syria, where the Syrian army has been accused by rebel forces of having used chemical weapons.

Syria held large stocks of chemical weapons prior to the outbreak of the civil war there, including the VX, Sarin and Tabun nerve agents, according to Global Security.org. Damascus is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

At least 100,000 people are believed to have died since fighting broke out between Syrian government forces and rebels in March 2011, according to the latest UN figures.

 

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