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UN to probe alleged chemical weapons use in Syria

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-03-23 02:43

UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council on Friday welcomed a Thursday decision by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon to launch an inquiry into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian armed attacks, and voiced its hope to see "an impartial, thorough and swift investigation."

The statement came as Vitaly Churkin, the Russian permanent representative to the United Nations who holds the rotating council presidency for March, answered a press question outside the council chamber.

"I think it was a very good reaction, a very good decision which was swiftly taken by the secretary-general," Churkin said. " And we hope that it is going to be an impartial, thorough and swift investigation."

The secretary-general announced his decision to conduct an investigation Thursday into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, a probe the Syrian government previously requested.

"I intend for this investigation to start as soon as practically possible," Ban told reporters in his office here. "The investigation mission is to look into the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian government."  

Ban made the decision in response to a formal request by the Syrian government on Wednesday for a "specialized, impartial and independent mission to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons."

At least 25 people were killed and 130 others wounded Tuesday when armed men fired a rocket stuffed with chemical materials at the Khan al-Asal, said Syrian state media, claiming opposition fighters were responsible. However, the rebels denied the accusations and instead accused the government of committing the misdeed.

Speaking to reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday, Bashar Ja'afari, the Syrian permanent representative to the United Nations, said he wanted a probe to look into the use of those weapons by "armed terrorist groups" in an attack on the village of Khan al-Assal on the outskirts of Aleppo Tuesday.

Ja'afari said the rebel's counterclaim was "to distract attention from the real fact on the ground, which is that the Syrian government, if in fact it has such weapons, would never use them against its own population."  

In replying to the letter from Damascus, the Syrian capital, the secretary-general has asked the Syrian government for " additional information" on its allegation that the armed opposition used chemical weapons in the attacks, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters here late Thursday.

Ban "requested the Syrian government to provide additional information pertaining to the alleged incident," Nesirky said.

"He also said the mission would require full cooperation from all relevant Syrian authorities and that he counted on the Syrian government's full support, particularly through unfettered access. "

Meanwhile, the secretary-general informed the Syrian government that he had received a separate request from the French and British governments to probe three incidents using the same mechanism provided by General Assembly and Security Council resolutions that is being applied to the Syrian government request, Nesirky said.

Earlier this week, Ban reiterated that the use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances would be an outrageous crime and anyone responsible must be held accountable.

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