[QODLink]
Middle East

Swede to probe Syria chemical weapons use

Scientist Ake Sellstrom to head UN investigation into allegations that chemical agents were used in the civil war.

Last Modified: 27 Mar 2013 08:46
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Sellstrom headed up the UN team that investigated Iraq's chemical weapons programmes in the 1990s [Reuters]

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has named Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom to head a UN investigation into allegations that chemical weapons were used in Syria, Ban's spokesman has said.

Live Box 20117693233259422

The UN said last week it would investigate Syrian allegations that rebels used chemical arms in an attack near the northern city of Aleppo, but Western countries sought an investigation of all claims about the use of such arms, including rebel charges that government forces used them.

"[Sellstrom] is an accomplished scientist with a solid background in disarmament and international security," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Tuesday.

If an investigation adds credibility to the rebels' claims that the government has used chemical weapons, it would represent another blow to Bashar al-Assad's efforts to retain power.

If it turned out that the rebels have used them, it could make countries even more reluctant to support the opposition.

Russia 'not represented'

It was not immediately clear who else would be on Sellstrom's team. Russia said on Monday that Russian and Chinese experts should be part of the investigation, but Moscow's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Tuesday that Russia would "most likely not" be represented.

Sellstrom was a chief inspector for UNSCOM, the UN inspection team that investigated and dismantled Iraq's biological and chemical weapons programmes in the 1990s.

Sellstrom also worked with UNMOVIC, the UN group that returned to Iraq in 2002 and found no solid evidence that Baghdad had revived its weapons-of-mass-destruction programmes before the 2003 US-led invasion as Washington and London alleged at the time.

Live Box 2011421105226899357

Nesirky said Sellstrom's investigation would be a technical, not a criminal, investigation, looking at whether chemical weapons were used and not at who may have used them.

US and European officials say there is no evidence of a chemical weapons attack, but the allegations of the rebels are worth taking seriously.

If one were to be confirmed, it would be the first use of such weapons in the two-year-old Syrian conflict, which the United Nations says has cost 70,000 lives.

France and Britain wrote to Ban on Thursday to draw his attention to rebel allegations of an attack near Damascus, as well as one in Homs in late December. The rebels blame Syria's government for those incidents as well as the Aleppo attack.

Ban made it clear on Thursday that the investigation would initially focus on the Aleppo incident, in which the government and rebels accuse each other of firing a missile laden with chemicals, killing 26 people.

But he has left open the possibility that the investigation could be broadened.

In a letter to the Security Council on Friday, Ban said he had asked Britain, France and Syria for further information on the other alleged chemical attacks "with a view to verifying any alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria".

Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters on Tuesday that he had provided Ban's office with "further information" about the alleged chemical attacks in Syria. He declined to provide details.

534

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Swathes of the British electorate continue to show discontent with all things European, including immigration.
Astronomers have captured images of primordial galaxies that helped light up the cosmos after the Big Bang.
Critics assail British photographer's portrayal of indigenous people, but he says he's highlighting their plight.
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
Featured
No one convicted after 58 people gunned down in cold blood in 2009 in the country's worst political mass killing.
While hosting the World Internet Conference, China tries Tiananmen activist for leaking 'state secrets' to US website.
Once staunchly anti-immigrant, some observers say the conservative US state could lead the way in documenting migrants.
NGOs say women without formal documentation are being imprisoned after giving birth in Malaysia.
Public stripping and assault of woman and rival protests thereafter highlight Kenya's gender-relations divide.