A UN team of inspectors investigating an apparent poison gas attack in Syria will leave the country by Saturday morning, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday in Vienna.
"They will continue investigation activities until tomorrow Friday and they will come out of Syria by Saturday morning and will report to me as soon as they come out," Ban told journalists.
The UN chief also said he had spoken on Wednesday to US President Barack Obama, as the United States appears to be moving closer to a military strike.
"I... expressed my sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states," Ban said.
"We discussed how the UN and the world can work together particularly with the United States, (and) how we can expedite the process of investigation," he added.
Ban has repeatedly spoken out against military action in Syria.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
But while he called for peace, he also urged those who may have used chemical weapons to be held responsible.
"Diplomacy should be given a chance... peace (should) be given a chance," he said.
He added: "The use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any reason, under any circumstances, is a crime against humanity and that must be held accountable for."
A team of UN inspectors has been investigating this week an alleged poison gas attack near Damascus on August 21, that the Syrian opposition says may have killed hundreds.
Ban's comments came as inspectors headed out Thursday to one of the sites near Damascus where Syria's regime allegedly attacked civilians with poisonous gas for a third day of inspections.
The UN team set out in a convoy of six vehicles, an AFP photographer said.
The Syrian government and the opposition have accused each other over the attack, which, if confirmed, would be the deadliest use of such weapons since Saddam Hussein gassed Iraqi Kurds in 1988.