Girl allegedly hurt in Syria chemical weapon attack 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/George Ourfalian)
The Hague - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a team to investigate claims of chemical weapons use in Syria was ready to deploy within 24 hours and urged the Syrian government to give the go-ahead so work could begin.
Ban, who met the head of the global chemical weapons monitoring body in The Hague on Monday, said an advance team had been sent to Cyprus. "We are ready, it is a matter of time," he said. The full team will consist of 15 experts, including inspectors, medical experts and chemists.
"All we are waiting for is the go-ahead from the Syrian government to determine whether any chemicals weapons were used, in any location," Ban said. He urged the Syrian government to be more flexible so the mission could deploy as fast as possible.
Ban and Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed details of a mission to investigate alleged chemical weapons use in Syria, the scope of which has become a source of tension between Russia and Western powers seeking to broaden the probe.
They were due to address how and when a team of up to 15 inspectors can gain access to Syria, where both rebels and government forces have accused each other of using chemical munitions.
"The use of chemical weapons by any side, under any circumstances, would constitute an outrageous crime with dire consequences and constitute a crime against humanity," Ban told delegates to a chemical weapons conference.
Russia, which has used its veto-wielding seat on the UN Security Council to counter Western pressure on its ally Syria, wants the UN probe to focus solely on Syrian government allegations that rebels used chemical arms near Aleppo.
But France and Britain additionally want two rebel claims of use by government forces in Homs and Damascus to be investigated. The Syrian opposition says President Bashar Assad's government carried out all three alleged attacks.