August 31, 2013 – SYRIA – UN inspectors tasked to probe alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria would leave the Syrian capital of Damascus for The Hague on Saturday with samples they collected from the suspected site of Aug. 21 attacks for lab analysis, a UN spokesman said on August 30. “They will be leaving Damascus and leaving Syria tomorrow,” Martin Nesirky told a daily news briefing here. “They will be returning to The Hague.” The UN inspectors had gathered in the Dutch city before entering Syria for their mission earlier this month. According to Nesirky, the inspectors have completed collecting samples, including medical samples from field hospitals and environmental samples from the alleged gas attack site outside Damascus, and interviewed victims for more evidence. “The samples that they have collected will be taken to be analyzed in designated locations and the intention is, of course, to expedite the analysis of that sampling that has been taken,” said the spokesman. “But we have to be very clear here that before that mission can draw any conclusions about this incident, the evaluation of all information including the analysis of all samples must be completed.” The “team is doing its utmost to expedite the process of analysis,” he said. “They will be compiling a preliminary report first on the basis of the sample analysis,” said Nesirky, adding that later they will compile a final report on their investigation results.
The UN fact-finding group, created by UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in March at the request of the Syrian government, will try to establish only whether chemical weapons were used, but not who used them. “As soon as the analysis of the samples is completed, a report will be given to the secretary-general and the secretary-general will share that report result with all (UN) member states and of course the Security Council,” said Nesirky. Responding to reporters’ questions, Nesirky ruled out any link between the withdrawal of the UN inspectors and possible Western strikes on Syria. He noted that there are currently 1,000 UN national and international staff working in Syria, “10 times the size of the UN inspectors.” The UN chief cut short a European visit and returned to the UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday night to await a preliminary report from the Syria inspectors. Ban, who had urged Western powers to give peace and diplomacy a chance amid increasing threats of military action on Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons, also met with representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. Ban will also meet with Angela Kane, the UN disarmament chief, here on Saturday, Nesirky said. Kane, who was sent to Damascus by the secretary-general to negotiate an inquiry into the alleged chemical weapons attacks on Aug. 21, left Syria on Friday and is on her way back to New York. However, the head of the UN inspectors, Swedish scientist Dr. Ake Salstrom, “will be remaining in Europe to oversee the (sample) analysis,” said Nesirky. –Global Times