UN weapons inspectors leave Syria after second mission

New team of UN chemical experts to arrive later this week to continue investigation of alleged chemical weapons use.

September 30, 2013 15:16
1 minute read.
Ake Sellstrom the head of a UN chemical weapons investigation team.

UN inspector in car 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

United Nations chemical weapons inspectors in Syria to investigate allegations of chemical and biological weapons use during the country's ongoing civil war departed from Damascus on Monday, witnesses said, ending their second mission in two months.

A convoy of four United Nations vehicles carrying the team set out from an hotel in central Damascus at around 1.30 p.m. local time (1030 GMT), and was expected to arrive in Beirut later Monday.

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Another team of UN experts, tasked with starting the process of verifying and eliminating Syria's chemical weapons, is expected to arrive in Syria this week.

Their mission, endorsed by the UN Security Council last week, was hammered out by Washington and Moscow the wake of an August 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus, which prompted threats of Western air strikes on Syria.

Inspectors who were in the country at the time confirmed that sarin gas had been used in the attack, which the US said had killed more than 1,400 people.

Syrian President Bashar Assad's Western opponents said the inspectors' report left little doubt that his forces were to blame for the attack.

Syrian authorities denied the accusation, and Russia has said the inspectors' report did not provide irrefutable proof that Assad's forces were responsible, and placed the blame on the opposition forces fighting to oust the Syrian leader.

"We have presented the evidence we possess ... that lead to the conclusion that this was done by the opposition. And we have serious suspicions that such attempts continue," Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his country's Kommersant newspaper.

The inspectors who left Damascus on Monday investigated six other alleged cases of chemical weapons use, including three reported around Damascus in the days following the August 21 attack.

Restrictions on media access made it difficult to follow the inspectors' activity inside Syria, but the United Nations said they would issue a comprehensive report on their findings next month.

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