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.
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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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 Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid