News / Middle East

Syria Invites UN Chemical Arms Chief; Access in Doubt

FILE - Animal carcasses in wake of what residents describe as a chemical weapons attack in Khan al-Assal area, near Aleppo, Syria, March 23, 2013..
FILE - Animal carcasses in wake of what residents describe as a chemical weapons attack in Khan al-Assal area, near Aleppo, Syria, March 23, 2013..
Reuters
The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday invited chief U.N. chemical weapons investigator Ake Sellstrom to Damascus to discuss allegations of banned arms use in Syria's civil war but suggested it would not compromise on access.
 
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters that U.N. disarmament chief Angela Kane was also invited to Syria for talks about the U.N. chemical investigation.
 
So far Sellstrom's team has not been active on Syrian territory because Assad's government is only willing to allow it access to the city of Aleppo, where both sides have accused the other of using chemical weapons.
 
“We are sure that Ms Kane and Dr Sellstrom will have constructive negotiations with the Syrian officials in order to reach an agreement, a mutual agreement on the terms of reference, mechanism and time frame of the mission,” he said.
 
Ja'afari said if they accept, the U.N. officials will be meeting with the Syrian foreign minister and national experts.
 
The Syrian envoy also made a fresh allegation against the rebels, suggesting they were stockpiling toxic chemicals.
 
“The Syrian authorities have discovered yesterday in the city of Banias 281 barrels filled with dangerous, hazardous chemical materials,” he said, adding that the chemicals were “capable of destroying a whole city, if not the whole country.”
 
Ja'afari said an investigation of the chemicals - which included monoethylene glycol and polyethylene glycol and were found at a storage site he said was linked to the “armed terrorist groups” - was still underway.
 
The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons. It has in turn accused rebels of deploying them in the two-year civil war that the United Nations says has killed over 90,000 people since March 2011. The rebels deny responsibility for any chemical attacks.
 
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Syria to give Sellstrom unfettered access to investigate all alleged chemical arms incidents. But Assad's government only wants the U.N. team to probe an incident in Aleppo from March, not others the U.S., Britain and France have written to Ban about. U.N. officials say U.N.-Syria negotiations on access have reached a deadlock.
 
Ja'afari was asked if the invitation to Sellstrom and Kane meant that Syria would consider allowing the U.N. team to go beyond Aleppo. He indicated that his government would not permit that, saying: “No, you wouldn't jump to this conclusion.”
 
Wrangling over access
 
Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky did not say whether the U.N. investigators would accept the invitation, which he described as “a move in the right direction.” He said the Syrian government needed to grant Sellstrom's team broad access across Syria “without further delay and without conditions.”
 
Sellstrom's team has been ready for well over two months to enter Syria but has been held up by the wrangling over access.
 
They recently visited neighboring to try to gather information. Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Rosemary DiCarlo told reporters Sellstrom was in Washington on Monday for discussions with U.S. officials.
 
Ja'afari repeated Syria's allegation that accusations of chemical attacks by government forces were an attempt to undermine their initial request for a U.N. investigation focusing solely on the Aleppo incident from March.
 
One senior Western diplomat said last month that Britain and the United States alone have notified Ban of 10 separate incidents of the use of chemical weapons by Assad's forces. France has also said its own tests of samples from inside Syria proved Assad's forces have used the nerve agent sarin.
 
Sellstrom is expected to deliver an interim report this month. U.N. envoys say it may just be oral and will likely be inconclusive since it is impossible for him to make definite pronouncements about the chain of custody of the samples he has received from Britain, France and the United States.
 
Syria is one of seven countries that has not joined the 1997 convention banning chemical weapons. Western nations believe it has caches of undeclared mustard gas, sarin and VX nerve agents.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More