UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon and Åke Sellström, appointed
to lead the fact-finding mission on the alleged use of chemical weapons in
Syria, announced at UN headquarters in New York on Monday that their team is
waiting to deploy from Cyprus within 48 hours.
“Even while waiting for
Syrian consent to enter the country, they have been doing what they have to do
and what they can, to gather and analyze available information,” said Ban.
“These activities include possible visits to relevant capitals.”
the international press that a truly comprehensive and credible investigation
would require “full access” to the sites, theoretically in a timely manner, as
traces of sarin dissipate quickly due to its volatility.
“This is a
crucial moment in our efforts to get the team on the ground to carry out its
important task,” he said.
“I take seriously the recent intelligence
report of the United States about the use of chemical weapons in
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,”
Matthew Meselson, co-director of Harvard’s Sussex Program on
Chemical and Biological Weapons, told The Jerusalem Post that at least three
UN-partner laboratories with experience in sarin analysis will need to
independently verify its existence from samples collected by their own teams –
and not Western intelligence agencies – in order to make a confident
“Several of the collaborating national laboratories associated
with the chemical weapons convention have just such a record,” said
“High confidence would further require that a technically
qualified independent group review the detailed findings and methods of the
laboratories and have unimpeded access to the technical personnel from those
laboratories,” he said.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirsky highlighted the
secretary-general’s desire to begin the 15-person investigation “without delay
and without any conditions.”
“They both agreed that there’s no substitute
for onsite activities,” Nesirsky said, adding that “the mission itself doesn’t
have the mandate to establish who used chemical weapons.”
that the UN’s deputy special representative in Lebanon was touring Syrian
refugee sites and is appealing for significantly more international aid as the
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