UN Chief Urges Syria to Allow Chemical Weapons Inspectors
NEW YORK, April 25 (RIA Novosti) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday reiterated his call on Syrian authorities to allow an international technical expert team to conduct a fact-finding mission in the country over the possible use of chemical weapons.
"The Secretary-General has consistently urged the Syrian authorities to provide full and unfettered access to the team. He renews this urgent call today," Ban's spokesperson Martin Nesirky said in a statement.
"The fact-finding team is on stand-by and ready to deploy in 24-48 hours," the official said.
According to Nesirky, the UN chief "takes seriously" the assessment presented in a recent letter from the White House to Congress that shows with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.
The White House said it had physiological samples indicating that the deadly chemical agent sarin was used on two occasions in the Syrian war, which has claimed at least 70,000 lives and displaced millions in just over two years.
"However, the United Nations is not in a position to comment on assessments based on national intelligence information," Nesirky said.
Last month, the Syrian government and rebels accused each other of using chemical weapons in an incident in Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province.
A team of international experts was dispatched by Ban Ki-moon to Syria to investigate the incident, but it is still in Cyprus awaiting permission to enter the country as the Syrian authorities have refused to allow the experts to probe other reported instances of chemical weapons use.
The Syrian opposition has claimed that Bashar Assad's forces used chemical weapons in two locations near Damascus on March 19, as well as in the city of Homs on December 23.
A confirmation of these reports could bring the international community closer to direct military intervention in the Syrian conflict, which is threatening to spill over the borders to neighboring countries.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that any reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict must be carefully investigated to avoid the repetition of the "Iraqi scenario" in which unconfirmed suspicions that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction were enough for foreign invasion.
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