UN: Chemical probe ready to deploy within 48 hours

Ban says investigative team is waiting at the ready to deploy from Cyprus to probe alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Ban Ki moon *concerned, thinking* 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Albert Gea)
Ban Ki moon *concerned, thinking* 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Albert Gea)
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.”
Ban told 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 Syria.
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,” Ban added.
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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 ruling.
“Several of the collaborating national laboratories associated with the chemical weapons convention have just such a record,” said Meselson.
“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.”
Nesirsky noted that the UN’s deputy special representative in Lebanon was touring Syrian refugee sites and is appealing for significantly more international aid as the situation deteriorates.