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UN Team to Brief Ban Ki-Moon on Syria

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is seen speaking at U.N. Headquarters in New York in this July 18, 2013, file photo.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will receive a briefing from his chemical weapons team on its mission to Syria. The inspectors are due to leave the country Saturday.

The U.N. chief cut short an official trip to Austria to return to headquarters, as the possibility of a military reprisal against President Bashar al-Assad’s government continued to loom after a suspected poison gas attack near Damascus last week killed hundreds of people.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the team of U.N. scientific experts investigating the August 21 attack near Damascus will leave Syria by Saturday morning. He said some of them will remain in Europe to oversee the delivery and analysis of samples to laboratories in order to ensure the chain of custody.

Haq said U.N. disarmament chief Angela Kane and some of the inspectors will be in New York in the coming days to brief the secretary-general.

“They will have a large number of facts at their disposal, they’ve collected a considerable amount of evidence - evidence through samples, evidence through witness interviews - they can construct from that a fact-based narrative that can get at the key facts of what happened on the 21st of August,” said Haq.

He added the team will present a final report once laboratory results had been received.

“It is imperative that the work that the investigation team does be seen by all as fair, impartial and accurate. And so they will do their very best for accuracy while trying to get all the results in as soon as they possibly can do,” stressed Haq.

World powers met again Thursday at the U.N. Security Council. Russia called the meeting of the other permanent Council members - Britain, China, France and the United States. Talks lasted about 45 minutes. Diplomats refused to brief reporters on what transpired, but it appeared there were no breakthroughs.

On Wednesday, the group had met to discuss a resolution, proposed by Britain, that would authorize “all necessary measures” to protect Syrian civilians.

Meanwhile, what appeared to be an imminent U.S. and British-led military response came to a sudden halt. Lawmakers in both countries have demanded detailed briefings and evidence to support their governments’ belief that President Assad conducted the August 21 poison gas attack.

In Washington, President Barack Obama’s top national security advisers briefed members of Congress. In London, Prime Minister David Cameron said he would act accordingly, when British lawmakers voted late Thursday against that government's military involvement in Syria.

A State Department spokesperson said the president will continue contemplating what to do in close consultation with U.S. allies.

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