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30 Apr, 2013 02:45

UN renews call for full access to Syria for chemical weapons inquiry

UN renews call for full access to Syria for chemical weapons inquiry

The UN chief has urged Damascus to give its fact-finding team full access to sites where chemical weapons allegedly were used, stressing that he takes seriously the recent US report about the use of chemical weapon in Syria.

“A credible and comprehensive inquiry requires full access to the sites where chemical weapons are alleged to have been used. I again urge the Syrian authorities to allow the investigation to proceed without delay and without any conditions,” UN General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon told reporters in the UN headquarters on Monday. He spoke ahead of the meeting with Ake Sellstrom, the head of the UN inspection mission established in mid-March to investigate several claims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

“This is a crucial moment in our efforts to get the team on the ground to carry out its important task,” Ban said.

“I take seriously the recent intelligence report of the United States about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. On-site activities are essential if the United Nations is to be able to establish the facts and clear up all the doubts surrounding this issue.”

The UN fact-finding team has been on stand-by and is ready to deploy within 24 to 48 hours, with an advance team positioned in Cyprus. The mission was established after a formal request from the Syrian government to investigate the case.

The UN chief added that the investigators have already been gathering and analyzing available information on alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria. These activities include possible visits to relevant capitals.

Shown the evidence on which London based its assertion that there was "limited but growing" evidence of chemical weapons use by Syrian authorities, Sellstrom found it inconclusive, a British diplomat said on conditions of anonymity, Reuters reports.

In this image made available by the Syrian News Agency on March 19, 2013, medics and other masked people attend to a man at a hospital in Khan al-Assal in the northern Aleppo province, as Syria's government accused rebel forces of using chemical weapons for the first time. The opposition denied the claim, saying instead that government forces might have used banned weapons. (AFP Photo / SANA)

The allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons has become a crucial factor as it could lead to the US and its allies stepping up involvement in the Syrian conflict. Earlier on Friday US President Barack Obama said that the proof of the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “game-changer.”

On Monday Obama took US concerns over the issue to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "President Obama and President Putin reviewed the situation in Syria, with President Obama underscoring concern over Syrian chemical weapons," a White House statement said.

Meanwhile Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that using weapons of mass destruction as a tool in geopolitical games prevents an honest investigation of their alleged use in Syria.

He told a news conference in Moscow on Monday, “There are states and external players who think that all means are good if they lead to displacement of the Syrian regime. But the issue of the use of weapons of mass destruction is too serious and no one should play with it. I consider it inadmissible to use this issue and speculate on it.”

“The blame for the fact that no one investigates the particular incident that took place on March 19 and that still causes universal concern should be put on the nations that attempt to prevent the UN Secretary General from a simple and direct answer to a simple and direct question,” the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry added.

Sergey Lavrov was referring to the alleged chemical weapons attack near the city of Aleppo in March. The Syrian government said that rebels used a rocket with a chemical warhead killing 25 people and injuring 86.