News / Middle East

UN Weapons Inspectors to Leave Syria by Saturday

A U.N. chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, Aug. 29, 2013.
A U.N. chemical weapons expert, wearing a gas mask, holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Ain Tarma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, Aug. 29, 2013.
Edward Yeranian
With the eyes of the international community fixed on their work, U.N. chemical weapons investigators carried out their third inspection Thursday in a probe of an alleged chemical weapons attack last week. It came as the U.N. chief urged world powers to hold off on possible military action against Syria  until the team finishes its work.

The weapons inspectors have now made three visits to rebel-held suburbs of the capital this week - with a convoy of white U.N. vehicles travelling to the suburbs of Douma and Zamalka on Thursday. The visit follows initial inspections to Zamalka and Mleiha Wednesday, and one to Madhamiya on Monday.

Witnesses told Arab satellite channels that the inspectors took blood and tissue samples from survivors of alleged chemical weapons attacks last week. An opposition activist told Arabiya TV that most of the bodies from those attacks were “buried immediately afterwards, due to the lack of a refrigerated morgue.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told journalists in Vienna that the inspectors would leave Syria by Saturday. He said that the team will give him a report at the end of their two-week mission, originally scheduled to investigate previous alleged chemical attacks near Aleppo last March.

The Syrian government kept the U.N. inspectors waiting in Cyprus for days, while it argued over details of their mission, including which sites they could visit. Evidence in chemical weapons attacks deteriorates within hours, making it difficult to assess what took place.

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari was quoted on Syrian state TV as saying that the U.S. and its Western allies were trying to pressure the inspectors into reaching a hasty conclusion by threatening military action:

He said the Syrian government would like to see the team continue its work freely and objectively and without any political or military pressure. He says a military threat against Syria aims to prevent the inspectors from carrying out their work and influence their conclusions.

The Syrian foreign ministry granted inspectors a two-week period to investigate alleged chemical attacks, with the possibility of extending that period by another two weeks if both parties agreed. It appears unlikely, however, that the U.N. will ask for an extension.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, meanwhile, said Thursday that his country would “combat any outside aggression that it was facing.”

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down nearly three percent, while US market indexes were off around two percent in early trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs