Stockholm, 18 September
UN chemical weapons inspectors will return to Syria soon to investigate various accusations against the regime and the Opposition, their chief said today.
“Yes we will be returning to Syria. Our planning isn’t finished yet, so I can’t say when we will be going, but it will be soon,” UN chief inspector Aake Sellstroem said.
His team, which went to Syria last month, concluded in a report presented on 16 September that banned chemical weapons were used on a wide scale in the Syrian civil war.
There was clear evidence sarin gas killed hundreds of people in an attack on Ghouta near Damascus on 21 August, the report said. “The report that was presented was an interim report,” Dr Sellstroem said.
“There have been other accusations presented to the UN Secretary-General, dating back to March, against both sides” in the conflict, he said.
There were 13 or 14 accusations that “have to be investigated”, he added.
A UN-mandated independent commission of inquiry into rights violations in the Syrian conflict said on Monday it was investigating 14 alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
Dr Sellstroem’s team went to Damascus on 18 August to investigate claims that chemical weapons were used at Khan al-Asal, near Aleppo, on 19 March and at two other sites.
The experts were in Damascus when the attack on Opposition-held Ghouta was staged on 21 August. The team was immediately ordered to concentrate on the Ghouta attack, and was expected to return later to investigate the other sites.
The report by the UN chemical weapons experts did not say who used the sarin gas, though the Syrian opposition and its allies have blamed President Bashar al-Assad’s troops.
Dr Sellstroem said that in the next trip, inspectors would not be addressing the question of who was responsible for the gas attack, in which the USA claims more than 1,400 people died. “That’s not our assignment,” he said.