News / Middle East

UN Chemical Weapons Inspectors Back in Syria

UN vehicle carrying chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus, Syria, Sept. 25, 2013.
UN vehicle carrying chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus, Syria, Sept. 25, 2013.
VOA News
United Nations chemical weapons inspectors are back in Syria to investigate the use of the banned materials in the country's two-and-a-half-year civil war.

The team led by Ake Sellstrom flew into neighboring Lebanon Wednesday and then traveled by car to Damascus.

It first went to Syria last month to investigate three attacks, including one in March outside of Aleppo that the Syrian government and rebel fighters blame on each other.

The team shifted its focus on the two-week mission to a recent attack outside Damascus, where it concluded that chemical weapons were used. The team's mandate does not include assigning blame for any chemical attacks.

Also Wednesday, a group of 13 rebel groups issued a joint statement rejecting the main opposition Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represented their interests.  The group, which includes the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, called on those fighting against President Bashar al-Assad to unite under an Islamic framework.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told VOA's Persian service that the opposition is divided because it is working on behalf of multiple foreign intelligence services.

"It depends on which capital is behind [a particular] wing of the opposition. You have an opposition working for the Saudi agenda, another opposition working for the Qatari agenda, then you have an opposition working for the American agenda, the British, the French. Each one of these wings is implementing the policies of these foreign agendas. This is the main reason these opposition [groups] cannot be unified," he said.

Syrian opposition groups acknowledged receiving foreign assistance but said their agenda was to end the Assad family's four-decade rule of Syria.

Meanwhile, in New York, diplomats are continuing to work on a draft resolution to enforce an agreement for Syria to give up its chemical weapons.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, but failed to agree on the key points of the document.

U.S. officials said points of contention remained as the two sides sought a deal on the language of the resolution.  The U.S. and Russian ambassadors to the U.N. are tasked with working out the final language.

Russia opposes a resolution that mentions Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, which includes military and non-military action to enforce decisions.

Russia has long opposed the idea of military intervention, and has vetoed three attempts to sanction Syria at the U.N. Security Council.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday the resolution could mention the Chapter VII article that permits force or sanctions, only if the U.S.-Russia chemical weapons accord was violated by either side in the Syrian conflict.

Speaking at the General Assembly Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama criticized doubters who questioned whether Syria's president carried out a chemical attack last month near Damascus. U.S. intelligence said the attack killed 1,400 people.

Syria's civil war has forced two million people to flee the country, with another 4.5 million displaced within Syria.  In total, the conflict has forced more than a quarter of Syria's population to leave their homes.

Most of those who have fled the country have gone to neighboring countries, including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs