26 Aug 2013

UN inspectors to be allowed into Syrian attack site

UN inspectors prepare to visit the site of last week’s suspected chemical weapon attack outside Damascus, as President Bashar al-Assad warns that any US intervention will fail.

UN inspectors to be allowed into Syrian attack site (G)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office said in a statement on Sunday that Syria had promised to observe a ceasefire at the site in the suburbs of Damascus while a United Nations team begins “on-site fact-finding activities”.

The UN experts arrived in Damascus three days before a mass poisoning killed many hundreds of people on 21 August, in what appears to have been the world’s worst chemical weapons attack in 25 years.

David Cameron has been speaking to international leaders while on holiday to discuss a response to the allegations, and Downing Street said it hadn’t ruled out recalling MPs to parliament before the official return next week. France’s foreign minister said on Monday that no decision had been made on whether to take military action, and that all options were on the table.

Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day – President Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied allegations that his forces used chemical weapons in an interview published by a Russian newspaper on Monday. He also warned Washington that any US military intervention would fail.

“Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day,” he told the Izvestia daily.

He added that government forces had been close to the site of the alleged chemical weapon attack: “Would any state use chemical or any other weapons of mass destruction in a place where its own forces are concentrated? That would go against elementary logic.”

Deaths investigated

Syrian opposition groups have accused government forces of killing more than 1,000 civilians with poison gas in Damascus suburbs on Wednesday.

A Syrian ministry spokesman said on Sunday that an agreement had been made between the UN and the Syrian government to allow a team lead by professor Aake Sellstroem to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Damascus province.

The news comes as the United States says it now has little doubt the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians.

US president Barack Obama is studying how to respond, a senior official in the US administration said on Sunday.

“Based on the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, witness accounts, and other facts gathered by open sources, the US intelligence community, and international partners, there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident,” the official said.

“We are continuing to assess the facts so the president can make an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons,” the official added.