UN official due in Syria to push for chemical experts' access

UN official due in Syria to push for chemical experts' access

UN official due in Syria to push for chemical experts access

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had previously expressed shock over reports of the attack. AFP photo

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Aug. 23 he intends to conduct a "thorough, impartial and prompt investigation" into the latest reported chemical weapons attack in Syria, an issue his top disarmament official will raise in Damascus shortly.

A U.N. statement said U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane was due to arrive in the Syrian capital on Aug. 24 to push for access to the reported attack site for U.N. inspectors, who were already in Syria to investigate previous chemical attack claims.

"It is (Ban's) intention to conduct a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation on the reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons during these attacks," U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey said in the statement.

"The secretary-general urges the Syrian authorities to respond positively and promptly to his request without delay, taking into account in particular that the Syrian Government has publicly expressed its own concerns regarding these events," he said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is under increasing pressure from Western and Gulf Arab countries and Assad's ally Russia to allow access to the rebel-held site of the pre-dawn attack on Aug. 21. The opposition Syrian National Coalition has also urged U.N. access. 

Al- Assad's opponents braved the front lines around Damascus on Friday to smuggle tissue samples to U.N. inspectors from victims of the reported mass poisoning, which if confirmed would be the world's deadliest chemical attack in decades. ü

So faral- Assad's government has not said whether it will allow chief U.N. chemical investigator Ake Sellstrom's team to visit the site in the suburbs east of Damascus. Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari has not responded to a Reuters query about possible access for Sellstrom's team.

The U.N. experts have been in Syria since Aug. 18 to investigate three previous alleged chemical attacks in the country dating from months ago.