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UN chemical inspectors submit Syria report

Ban Ki-moon to present report to UN Security Council on Monday after it was submitted to him by UN team.

Last Modified: 16 Sep 2013 09:27
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UN chemical weapons inspectors have handed their report into an alleged gas attack in Syria to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

The report into the incident, in which more than 1,400 people are reported to have died last month on the outskirts of Damascus, will be unveiled later on Monday.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the secretary-general will brief a closed session of the UN Security Council on its contents on Monday morning. He will also brief the 193-member General Assembly later that day.

The inspection team led by Swedish expert, Ake Sellstrom, was mandated to report on whether chemical weapons were used in the Damascus suburbs and, if so, which chemical agents were used - not on who was responsible.

Ban has accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of multiple crimes against humanity and said the UN inspectors' report would provide "overwhelming" confirmation chemical weapons were used.

The US and some allies say there is no doubt that forces loyal to Assad were responsible for the August 21 incident.

UN inspectors arrived in Syria in March to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons near Aleppo. But after the attack in Eastern Ghouta, the team shifted its focus.

Although the report is likely to say that chemical weapons were used, it will not clearly state was responsible for the strike.

'Victory' for Syria

The submission of the inspectors' report came just hours after a Syrian minister declared a joint US-Russian plan to remove Syria's chemical weapons a "victory" that averts war.

"On one hand, it helps the Syrians emerge from the crisis and on the other it has allowed for averting war against Syria," Ali Haidar, minister of state for National Reconciliation, told Russian news agency Ria Novosti on Sunday.

"It's a victory for Syria that was achieved thanks to our Russian friends."

Syria said it will commit to the plan to eradicate its chemical weapons once it has UN approval, Omran al-Zoubi, Syria's information minister, told ITN on Sunday, adding that the regime had already begun preparing relevant documents.

"Syria is committing itself to whatever comes from the UN," he said.

"We accept the Russian plan to get rid of our chemical weapons. In fact we've started preparing our list."

His remarks came after John Kerry, US secretary of state, met Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, to brief him on the plan to eradicate the chemical weapons.

Kerry came out of the talks with a word of warning for Syria.

"The threat of force remains, the threat is real," he said at a joint news conference in Jerusalem with Netanyahu.

The US is seeking to bolster international support for the agreement signed in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday, which demands action from Syria within days.

The plan to dismantle and destroy Syria's chemical arms stockpile - believed to be one of the largest in the world - by mid-2014 was reached over three days of talks in Geneva between Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

It gives Assad a week to hand over details of his regime's arsenal of the internationally banned arms in order to avert unspecified sanctions and the threat of US-led military strikes.

It also specifies there must be immediate access for arms control experts and that inspections of what the US says is about 45 sites linked to the Syrian chemical weapons programme must be completed by November.

The deal won the backing of China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, which like Russia has vetoed several UN resolutions on Syria.

"This agreement will enable tensions in Syria to be eased," Wang Yi, Chinese foreign minister, told his visiting French counterpart Laurent Fabius, who will meet Lavrov on Tuesday in Moscow.

It was also welcomed by Guido Westerwelle, German foreign minister, who cautioned: "It is important, however, that it be put into practice."

 

'Political solution'

Nabil El-Araby, Arab League chief, called the deal "a step closer to a political solution" to the civil war in Syria that has cost more than 110,000 lives since March 2011.

In advance of Kerry's talks with the leader of Syria's neighbour Israel, Netanyahu said he hoped the accord would see the complete destruction of the Damascus regime's chemical weapons.

The Syrian rebels fighting to topple Assad have rejected the deal, warning it would not halt the conflict.

"Are we Syrians supposed to wait until mid-2014, to continue being killed every day and to accept [the deal] just because the chemical arms will be destroyed in 2014?" asked Free Syrian Army chief General Selim Idriss.

Experts said the deal would be difficult - if not impossible - to implement.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Sweden, Tilman Bruck, director of the Stockholm International Peace Institute, said he believed the deal could work.

"There is a real chance that this will succeed. At the same time it will not achieve regime change, and that is of course what the West had contemplated. So from that point of view it is not a very ambitious goal but still a step in the right direction."

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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