Chemical weapons investigators head to Syria within days: U.N.

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 01, 2013 12:27 PM
Chemical weapons investigators head to Syria within days: U.N.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. inspectors will travel to Syria within days to investigate claims of chemical weapons use in the country's civil war after the Syrian government granted access to three sites, the United Nations said on Thursday.

"The team will depart for Syria as soon as practical and is preparing to depart within days," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. "The team is now assembling ... in The Hague."

The head of a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team, Ake Sellstrom, and about 10 experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organization will travel to Syria, Nesirky said.

They will visit Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province - where the Syrian government, backed by its ally Russia, says rebels used chemical weapons in March - and two unidentified locations, the United Nations said.

The U.N. inquiry will only try to establish whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them.

The Syrian government and the opposition have accused each other of using chemical weapons and both have denied it. The United Nations said it has received 13 reports of possible chemical weapons attacks.

Sellstrom and the head of the U.N. Office of Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, visited Damascus last week at the invitation of the Syrian government to discuss access and obtained an understanding that it would be granted.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Doina Chiacu)