UN Inspectors Visit Chemical Attack Site With Syrian Government Permission
UPDATE: The UN says chemical weapons inspectors travelling to al Ghouta on the outskirts of Syria’s capital Damascus to investigate an alleged chemical weapons attack have come under fire from snipers. They were travelling with a Syrian government escort in clearly marked UN armoured vehicles.
“The first vehicle of the Chemical Weapons Investigation Team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area,” said a UN spokesperson.
There are no reports of casualties.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Reuters reports that United Nations chemical weapons inspectors have left central Damascus to visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, after President Assad’s government gave his backing to a UN investigation on Sunday.
Critics of the Syrian government have warned that much of the evidence could have already been destroyed by heavy fighting in the area since the attack, including sustained government shelling.
Western governments have called for a strong response if it is proven that the Syrian government used chemical weapons during an attack on Al Ghouta. U.S. president Barack Obama has previously said that the use of chemical weapons would constitute a ‘red line’ which would trigger US intervention in the Syrian conflict. France has said that the international community should react ‘with force’ to the incident, whilst British foreign secretary William Hague has said that it would be possible to ‘respond’ without the backing of the UN security council.
France and Britain have been pushing for a strong response against the Syrian government ever since video footage of the incident first appeared online. Without waiting for the results of any investigation, the two countries have between them made it clear that they believe there was a chemical attack and that the Syrian government was responsible. The United States has also been mulling a military response.
Both Iran and Russia have backed the Syrian government, which says that it has not used chemical weapons. Evidence has emerged online which may suggest that it was rebels, not the government, who deployed the deadly toxic gas.
According to the United Nations the Syrian government has agreed to a ceasefire in the area of the alleged attack while an investigation takes place. Rebel leaders in the area have also said that they would respect a ceasefire and offer their protection to the UN inspectors. The inspectors themselves left their Damascus hotel in a six car convoy today, accompanied by Syrian security forces and an ambulance.
Syrian president Bashar al Assad denied his government had used chemical weapons and warned the US not to intervene during an interview with Russian newspaper Izvestia:
“Would any state use chemicals or any other weapons of mass destruction in a place where its own forces are concentrated? That would go against elementary logic. So accusations of this kind are entirely political,” he said
“Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day.”
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