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Syria says it will allow U.N. inspectors at site of alleged chemical weapons attack

By Albert Aji

Associated Press


DAMASCUS, Syria >> Syria reached an agreement with the United Nations today to allow a team of international experts to visit the site of alleged chemical weapons attacks last week outside Damascus, state media and the U.N. said.

A statement on Syrian state television said Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and U.N. disarmament chief Angela Kane struck the deal during talks in Damascus, and that the two sides are working to finalize the date and time of the visit.

The world body said that a team of U.N. experts already in Syria has been instructed to focus on investigating the purported attack on Wednesday. The mission "is preparing to conduct on-site fact-finding activities'" on Monday, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement.

Anti-government activists and Doctors Without Borders say that more than 300 people were killed in the alleged toxic gas attack on the eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital. Images purporting to show the aftermath of the attack are filled with people gasping for breath and dead children unmarked by any wounds.

The eastern Ghouta area where the attack took place is under opposition-control, which makes arranging a trip across the front lines difficult. Rebels and the main Western-back opposition group have said they would guarantee access and the safety of a U.N. team to facilitate an investigation.

Nesirky said the Syrian government "affirmed that it will provide the necessary cooperation, including the observance of the cessation of hostilities at the locations related to the incident."

He added that U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon "would like to reiterate that all relevant parties equally share the responsibility of cooperating in urgently generating a safe environment for the mission to do its job efficiently and providing all necessary information."

The deal appears to meet the demands of the world powers, including the U.S., Britain, France and Russia, all of whom called on the Syrian government to cooperate with the U.N. and grant inspectors access to the sites.

Confirming whether chemical weapons were indeed used carries enormous stakes, and could play a large role in determining the future course of Syria's civil war. It has reinvigorated debate about the possible use of foreign military action in the conflict.

Last week, France said that if an independent investigation confirms that chemical weapons were indeed employed, then military force could be used in Syria.

The U.S. Navy has sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, closer to Syria, as President Barack Obama considers a military response.

A senior administration official said Sunday that the U.S. has "very little doubt" that chemical weapons were used in Wednesday's attack. The official said the U.S. intelligence community based its assessment, which was given to the White House, on "the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured" and witness accounts.

That appeared to align with French assessments as well.

The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

In Paris, French President Francois Hollande said a "body of evidence" suggests that chemical weapons were used during Wednesday's attacks, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime was most likely behind it. According to a statement Sunday from his office, Hollande said "everything" leads France to believe the regime was behind the attack. It didn't elaborate.

The U.N. team that will carry out the investigation arrived in Syria last week to look into three earlier purported chemical attacks. The mission is led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom.

Meanwhile, Syrian state TV said a car bomb killed the governor of the central province of Hama on Sunday. Anas Abdul Razaak Naem was assassinated in the Jarajima neighborhood of the city of Hama, the provincial capital, it said. No further details were immediately available.

Assassinations of politicians, army officers and journalists who support President Bashar Assad's regime are commonplace in Syria's civil war. At least 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's crisis began in March 2011.


Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten in Paris and Kimberly Dozier in Washington contributed to this report.

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livinginhawaii wrote:
I'm still willing to bet that the rebels did it to themselves. Who would you believe more - a structured government already in control risking intervention by the US or radical Muslim rebels who train their kids to strap bombs to themselves?
on August 25,2013 | 07:26AM
cojef wrote:
You are probably right in that who is most likely to gain by Our intervention, the rebels. Diplomacy requires the selection of rhetoric wisely in addressing issues of grave concerns, otherwise you would be forced to take actions, not in the best interest of our Nation.
on August 25,2013 | 07:51AM
Usagi336 wrote:
Absolutely. The government has nothing to gain by this. The rebels, like the Al Nusra Front, would not hesitate for a second to kill hundreds of innocent men, women and children if it means winning the war for them.
on August 25,2013 | 09:54AM
Grimbold wrote:
Right Al Nusra Front is Islamist . Such people who blow up themselves would not hesitate to poison their own children if it helps their purpose. If the USA attacks Syria he will get a place in history as the dummest ever president.
on August 25,2013 | 08:50PM
krusha wrote:
It was reported that Al Assad did this as retaliation for a recent attempt on his life by the rebels. These chemical weapons are tightly controlled by his regime and any use would have to have Al Assad's direct orders.
on August 26,2013 | 08:57AM
Grimbold wrote:
Our president Obama is even dummer than Bush. He never learned that there is Fabricated evidence and one nation who has the sway over us is in cahouts with the rebels there on that matter: Israel. Because Israel want to get rid of Assad. He never harmed the USA.
on August 25,2013 | 08:47PM
HD36 wrote:
The Wall Street Journal just reported that the US has said it's too late for Syria to allow the UN inspectors. We're positioning for war. Reminds me that the same powers who pushed for war in Iraq based on "Weapons of Mass Destruction" are still at the helm of power in the military industrial complex. At a time when the United States is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world, they never fail to find a war.
on August 25,2013 | 07:51AM
realist3463 wrote:
In my opinion, we have little to no strategic interest in Syria. Yes, it would be nice to deny Russia their warm water port in the Med. Yes, it would be nice to undermine the Iranian influence in the region. Yes, it would be VERY nice to undercut the support to Lebanese Hezbollah in Lebanon. But, these are all nice to haves. The opposition forces in Syria are not friends of the US. They will not be supportive of our strategic interests. As we saw in Libya, you need to be careful what you wish for. We took a corrupt but mostly stable country and created a festering, vast, ungoverned territory with little hope for the future. The costs of upending Libya are only now beginning to be understood. So, from my viewpoint, Syrian instability with Assad in power is far better than the mass chaos that will erupt if he is deposed. And where will all that CBR material go in the days following the Alawite collapse? And are we going to step in between the Sunni and the Alawites to keep the Sunnis from "squaring the account" that began back when the French helped the Alawites gain power. We are only beginning to see the atrocities on the ground in Syria. Putting young American men and women into that cauldron will only result in US kids going home in boxes. We've seen enough of that already...the Syrians have to find their own way into the future.
on August 25,2013 | 02:12PM
HD36 wrote:
We're not the only ones going into this war. France, England and Israel assume the US will lead the attack and they'll be right behind.
on August 25,2013 | 02:46PM
realist3463 wrote:
Let them take whatever action is in their National interest. All of Syria is not worth one American life.
on August 25,2013 | 03:57PM
HD36 wrote:
I totally agree but the powers running the show say it's too late for UN inspectors. "We know people died from chemical weapons." Problem is they don't know for sure who used them on who. Seems like a big rush to go to war. Syria is welcoming UN ispectors. Even Russia said, " Don't make the same mistake like you did in Iraq." No weapons of mass destruction but a big media blitz hype that we had to go to war before Saddam used them against humanity. Turns out about 1 million of them died directly or indirectly.
on August 25,2013 | 06:33PM
Grimbold wrote:
HD36: You are right: It is the same Jewish advisers infiltrated "secret service'.
on August 25,2013 | 08:53PM
sailfish1 wrote:
This is a setup by the rebels. It sounds like the chemical weapons hit civilians - if that was the case, why would the Syrian government target civilians and not the rebel fighters and risk intervention by the U.S., England, France and Germany? Of course, the rebels don't care about the civilians but they won't kill their own fighters. The U.S. better get ABSOLUTE proof before venturing into this mess. Iraq wasn't that long ago and the U.S. already forgot the huge blunder they made?
on August 25,2013 | 10:46PM
realist3463 wrote:
I see where John Kerry is going to make a statement at 2 PM Eastern time. Now that is really scary.
on August 26,2013 | 07:46AM
pcman wrote:
I am very impressed with the assessment of the situation in Syria by all of you Hawaii bloggers. I also think an element of the rebels planted the chemical weapons in civilian areas were there were a lot of children rather than rebel fighters. American policy makers are being duped into helping oust Assad from Syria, like we did Qadaffi in Libya, Mubarrak in Egypt. Sen McCain, SECDEF Hagel, Pres Obama, and others need to realize that the US, Europe and Israel are better of with imperfect control, rather than no control at all, over the Islamic Brotherhood in the Middle East and North Africa. We should have continued to democratize Iraq rather than bail out just to say we ended the war for political reasons. Iran would be the lasting benefactor for our last five years of muddling around in the ME and North Africa.
on August 26,2013 | 08:58AM
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