Syrian free army gas mask370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
ANKARA - UN-appointed inspectors, blocked from entering
Syria, are in Turkey to gather information about possible use of chemical
weapons in the civil war, officials said on Thursday.
Members of the team
assembled by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had been on standby in Cyprus
since April, unable to enter Syria as Western governments accused Syrian President
Bashar Assad's forces of chemical weapons attacks.
They were sent to
Turkey this week and its head, Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, was meeting
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday, a senior Turkish official
The Syrian government and rebels fighting it have accused
each other of using lethal chemical agents, including sarin gas, in the
More than 100,000 people have been killed since
fighting began in March 2011 in what is the longest and most violent of the
recent Arab uprisings, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for
Western governments have grown frustrated that the UN
mission has been unable to make progress on investigating the claims, a diplomat
From Turkey, the team will be unable to gather soil samples
or scientific evidence needed to prove chemical use, but could compile
intelligence and interview or take blood samples from witnesses or victims of
"As he cannot travel to Syria, Sellstrom visits
countries like Turkey, France and Britain that have some information about
possible use of chemical weapons in Syria," said the Turkish official, who spoke
on condition of anonymity.
Sellstrom visited the Turkey-Syria border area
and talked to officials who shared data on chemical weapons use, he
Syria is one of seven countries that has not joined the 1997
Chemical Weapons Convention but is believed to have significant stockpiles of
undeclared chemical weapons, including mustard, sarin and VX nerve
Assad's government has rejected as lies assertions by the United
States, Britain and France that its forces have used chemical weapons several
times against Syrian citizens. It said the claims were an attempt to justify
foreign military intervention.