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Dhaka Tribune

Syria says ‘nothing to hide’ from UN arms inspectors

Update : 15 Aug 2013, 02:48 PM

Syria’s government said Thursday it has nothing to hide from a UN team of chemical weapons inspectors that it expects to visit the war-ravaged country in the coming days.

The announcement comes a day after the United Nations said a team of inspectors led by Swedish arms expert Ake Sellstroem would soon depart for Syria after getting the green light from Damascus.

“The negotiations between Syria and the UN ended positively and the team is expected in Syria in the coming days,” a foreign ministry official told AFP.

“There were no difficulties in the negotiations and Syria said it is ready to give the team all the facilities it needs to carry out its mission,” the official said, adding “Syria has nothing to hide.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman said the team would investigate the sites of alleged chemical weapons attacks for two weeks.

The mission has been delayed in the past over differences with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime over the scope of the probe into the alleged use of chemical arms in the country’s civil war.

The United Nations last month reached a framework agreement with the Syrian government on the mission but had been awaiting a final green light from Damascus.

One of the sites to be investigated is Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo, where the government says rebels used chemical weapons on March 19, killing at least 26 people, including 16 Syrian soldiers.

The opposition says government forces carried out the attack.

The United Nations has not yet identified the two other sites.

“Our goal remains a fully independent and impartial inquiry,” said a UN statement.

“The Secretary-General believes that an effective mechanism to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons can serve as an important deterrent against their employment,” it added.

“The overwhelming support of the international community for this investigation makes clear that the use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances would constitute an outrageous crime.”

Sellstroem is to be joined by 10 experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organisation.

The Syrian opposition says the investigators can have full access to sites under its control where chemical weapons are alleged to have been used.

Damascus had called for a UN probe in March but insisted it focus solely on the Khan al-Assal site. Ban, however, had pressed for broader access and investigation of other sites as well.

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