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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs