UN chemical experts' work in Syria finished: Spokesman

UN chemical experts' work in Syria finished: Spokesman

BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
UN chemical experts work in Syria finished: Spokesman

United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane leaves her hotel in Damascus Aug. 27. REUTERS photo

United Nations experts have finished their work in Syria and will "expedite" a report on whether chemical weapons have been used in the country's conflict, U.N. Spokesman Martin Nesirky said Aug. 30.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is ready to brief the U.N. Security Council on the investigation into a suspected chemical weapons attack this weekend if needed, the spokesman told a briefing.

While the United States and its allies are considering a military strike on Syria in response to the August 21 attack, no country has yet requested a Security Council meeting.

Ban explained progress made by the inspection team in a meeting with U.N. ambassadors from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. "The team has completed its collection of samples and evidence," Nesirky told reporters. "They are now packing up, they will be leaving Damascus and leaving Syria tomorrow." U.N. disarmament envoy Angela Kane left Damascus on Friday and will brief Ban in New York on Aug. 31, the spokesman added. Interpreters and other backup staff with the UN team also left on Friday, he said.

The 13 experts led by Ake Sellstrom are to take samples taken from the site of the alleged attack at Ghouta, near Damascus, to laboratories in Europe.

"Dr Sellstrom's team is doing its utmost to expedite the process of analysis," Nesirky said while stressing "the need for rigorous attention to maintain the integrity of the process." The spokesman said that the eventual report written by the inspection team would be given to all U.N. member states.

Disarmement envoy left Beirut for Istanbul

Meanwhile, U.N. disarmament envoy Angela Kane arrived Aug. 30 in the Lebanese capital from neighbouring Syria and immediately left for Istanbul, a Lebanese security source told AFP.

Kane was sent to Damascus on Saturday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to press for an inquiry into alleged chemical weapons attacks near the Syrian capital on Aug. 21.

"[Kane] arrived in Lebanon via the Masnaa border crossing with Syria at around midday and then she immediately headed to Beirut airport to take a flight to Istanbul," the source said.

On Aug. 25, Kane negotiated a deal with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem under which U.N. inspectors, already in Syria to probe three other suspect sites, were allowed to probe the latest alleged chemical strikes that struck Ghouta in the Damascus suburbs.

The U.N. team is due to report on its findings to Ban Ki-moon after they leave Syria on Aug. 31. 

Syrian state television confirmed that Kane had left the country.