Israeli soldiers in chemical weapons drill 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian President Bashar Assad has agreed to allow a United Nations mission into the country to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday.
According to a UN statement, the investigative team's departure is "imminent" after a three-month delay.
"As agreed with the Government of Syria, the team will remain in the country to conduct its activities, including on-site visits, for a period of up to 14 days, extendable upon mutual consent," the UN stated.
The United Nations said it has received 13 reports of possible chemical weapons use - one from Syria's government and the rest mainly from Britain, France and the United States.
The Syrian government and the opposition have accused each other of using chemical weapons, and both have denied it.
Ban Ki-moon appointed Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom in March to lead a UN inquiry into the claims, but diplomatic wrangling and concerns over safety had previously prevented Sellstrom and his team of experts from entering Syria.
The UN inquiry will only try to establish whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them. Sellstrom's team is made up of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organization.
"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," the UN said on Wednesday.
"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," the world body added. Reuters contributed to this report.