UN set to begin chemical weapons investigation in Syria

 

Weapons inspectors could finally be about to begin investigating claims that the regime in Syria has used chemical munitions during the country’s bloody civil war after a deal was struck to allow them into the country.

In a statement issued yesterday, the office of Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations’ Secretary-General, confirmed that an informal agreement concluded a fortnight ago, to let inspectors visit three sites in Syria, had been formally approved by Bashar al-Assad’s government in Damascus.

“The departure of the team is now imminent,” it said. “As agreed with the government of Syria the team will remain in the country to conduct its activities, including on-site visits, for a period of up to 14 days, extendable upon mutual consent.”

It is now expected that a team led by the Swedish scientist, Ake Sellstrom, will travel to Damascus in the coming days.

What they find may determine how other countries respond to increasingly loud demands by the opposition groups, which have pleaded with Western governments to provide them with arms. The pleas have grown ever louder, especially since the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah entered the civil war on behalf of the Syrian government earlier in the year.

Small scale assistance – such as the provision of non-lethal equipment - has already been provided by the UK and other Western countries, but there is some pressure to send weapons that would help to combat recent government gains.

In a report published in June, the UN said it had “reasonable grounds” to believe that chemical weapons had been used on four occasions in March and April but could not determine which side was behind them.

The report suggested that both sides – government troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and a number of the various rebel groups – were responsible for using chemical weapons.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that limited quantities of toxic chemicals were used. It has not been possible, on the evidence available, to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator,” said Paulo Pinheiro, who chaired the UN inquiry.

The UK and France have been adamant that small amounts of chemical weapons, particularly Sarin gas, and possibly also the nerve agent, VX, have been used by Assad’s forces.

The US has, however, been reluctant to endorse the findings. Last August Barack Obama said that the use of non-conventional weapons would constitute a “red line” for the US, which was widely taken to mean that Washington would consider some degree of intervention if the use of chemical weapons could be proved.

So far, more than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn