News / Middle East

UN Chemical Team Begins Investigation in Syria

Ake Sellstrom (R), the head of a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team, arrives in Damascus August 18, 2013.
Ake Sellstrom (R), the head of a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team, arrives in Damascus August 18, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Margaret Besheer
— U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says a U.N. team of experts began work Monday in Syria investigating whether chemical weapons were used in at least three locations during the country's on-going civil war.  

The U.N. chief established the team of scientific experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organization in March, but until now they had been unable to enter Syria because of unresolved issues with the government.

On Monday, Ban Ki-moon told reporters the team had entered the country and started work to determine whether chemical agents had been used.

“This is the first probe of allegations of the use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century. I firmly believe that an effective mechanism to investigate allegations of the possible use of chemical weapons will help deter their future use," said  Ban Ki-moon.

Ban said that as agreed between the U.N. and the Syrian government, the team would conduct its activities for up to 14 days and that could be extended upon mutual agreement.  He reiterated that in order to credibly establish the facts, the mission must have full access to the sites of the alleged incidents.  

The mission will try to establish only whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them.

The United Nations has said one of the sites is Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province. In March, the Syrian government accused rebels of using chemical agents in Khan al-Assal and asked the U.N. to investigate.

The two other sites have not been identified, but are likely to be from a list submitted to the U.N. by Britain, France and the United States.  The Syrian government has resisted allowing inspectors to visit these other sites and held up the mission’s arrival in Syria for months over the issue.

The secretary-general also expressed his growing concern over the spiraling violence in Egypt, where the military has vowed it will not tolerate anti-government protests seeking the return of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

"I strongly condemn attacks on churches, hospitals and other public facilities. There is no justification for targeting civilians or destroying infrastructure and property so important for Egypt's future. Preventing further loss of life should be the highest priority. I urge all Egyptians to exercise maximum restraint and resolve differences peacefully," he said.

The U.N. leader said the Muslim Brotherhood should have more political space and that Morsi should be released from detention.

U.N. political chief Jeffrey Feltman is in the region and will hold wide-ranging talks starting Tuesday with a focus on how the world body can best support efforts to restore peace and advance reconciliation in Egypt.

The U.N. secretary-general is just back from a visit to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. He said the U.S. push to restart direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is an opportunity that must not be lost.

Ban said achieving agreement will require vision and courage along with sacrifices, understanding and leadership from both sides. He said the U.N. would continue to work to help find a solution that would benefit both Israelis and Palestinians.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid