UN arms experts inspect a site suspected of being hit by chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb on August 28, 2013
UN arms experts inspect a site suspected of being hit by chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb, on August 28, 2013. UN chemical weapons inspectors will return to Syria soon to investigate various accusations against the regime and opposition, their chief inspector has told AFP. © Mohamed Abdullah - AFP/File
UN arms experts inspect a site suspected of being hit by chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb on August 28, 2013
Pia Ohlin, AFP
Last updated: September 18, 2013

UN experts to return to Syria soon, says chief weapons inspector

UN chemical weapons inspectors will return to Syria soon to investigate various accusations against the regime and opposition, their chief told AFP on Wednesday.

"Yes we will be returning to Syria. Our planning isn't finished yet, so I can't say when we will be going, but it will be soon," UN chief inspector Aake Sellstroem said.

His team, which went to Syria last month, concluded in a report presented on September 16 that banned chemical weapons were used on a wide scale in the Syrian civil war.

There was clear evidence sarin gas killed hundreds of people in an attack on Ghouta near Damascus on August 21, the report said.

"The report that was presented was an interim report," Sellstroem said.

"There have been other accusations presented to the UN secretary general, dating back to March, against both sides" in the conflict, he said.

There were 13 or 14 accusations that "have to be investigated", he added.

A UN-mandated independent commission of inquiry into rights violations in the Syrian conflict said Monday it was investigating 14 alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Sellstroem's team went to Damascus on August 18 to investigate claims that chemical weapons were used at Khan al-Asal, near Aleppo, on March 19 and at two other sites.

The experts were in Damascus when the attack on opposition-held Ghouta was staged on August 21. The team was immediately ordered to concentrate on the Ghouta attack, and was expected to return later to investigate the other sites.

The report by the UN chemical weapons experts did not say who used the sarin gas, though the Syrian opposition and its allies have blamed President Bashar al-Assad's troops.

Sellstroem said that in the next trip, inspectors would not be addressing the question of who was responsible for the August 21 gas attack, in which the United States claims more than 1,400 people died.

"That's not our assignment," he said.

The attack sparked threats by the United States and other Western nations of a military strike on Assad's forces.

But the military threat has eased after Russia and the United States agreed on a plan to put Syrian chemical arms under international control.

Syrian officials have denied using sarin gas and Russia said Wednesday Damascus had given it evidence that the rebels were behind the August 21 attack.

Sellstroem said the weapons inspectors' travel plans should "firm up within a week".

He said he hoped to be able to present a final report addressing all of the accusations "possibly by the end of October".

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