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Chemical probe team arrives in Damascus

19 August 2013, 08:31

Syria - UN inspectors arrived in the Syrian capital on Sunday, on a mission to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons, as Syria's government vowed to fully cooperate with them.

Syrian plainclothes security men whisked away the 20-member team, led by Swedish chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom, from a crush of waiting reporters and cameramen as they arrived at their five-star hotel in the heart of Damascus.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the Associated Press before their arrival that Syria will "fully cooperate" with the team.

"I assure you, on behalf of the Syrian Arab Republic, that we will fully cooperate with this team and provide it will all information we have and all facilities to reach a rational conclusion," he said.

"Our basic target is for this team to find facts on ground, especially about what happened in (the Aleppo suburb of) Khan al-Assal, because we, as a government, do not know about any other cases other than the case where chemical weapons were used by terrorists there," he said.

Syria's government refers to rebels fighting its rule as terrorists.

The UN team's mission will be limited to investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in three areas, in particular the 19 March attack in Khan al-Assal that President Bashar Assad blames on rebels.

The other two sites have been kept secret.

Assad's government and the rebels fighting to topple him each say the other side has used chemical weapons during the 28-month conflict.

Assad had refused to allow a broader UN investigation into allegations of chemical use, including charges that have been leveled by the United States, Britain and France.

Mekdad insisted that Syria "will never use chemical weapons against its people".

- AP

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