Ake Sellstrom (centre), the head of the UN chemical weapons investigation team, arrives in Damascus yesterday.
DAMASCUS: UN inspectors returned to Syria yesterday to pursue a probe into poison gas attacks, as Russia and the West wrangled over how to eliminate the country’s banned chemical weapons. The group, led by chief expert Ake Sellstrom, flew to Beirut in Lebanon and travelled by overland convoy via the Masnaa border post to Damascus.
US President Barack Obama demanded on Tuesday tough Security Council action against Syria as the conflict there dominated debate at the annual UN General Assembly.
Further complicating the situation for the international community, 13 key Syrian Islamist groups said they did not recognise any foreign-based opposition group, including the main Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition.
The groups include members of the main rebel Free Syrian Army and more radical Islamists, such as the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front. Sellstrom’s inspectors are expected to examine the alleged use of chemical weapons some 14 times in the 30-month conflict estimated to have killed more than 110,000 people.
After a preliminary visit last month, his team concluded in a report presented on September 16 that banned chemical weapons had been widely used in fighting between President Bashar Al Assad’s regime and rebel forces. There was clear evidence that sarin gas was used in an attack in the eastern suburbs of the capital on August 21, the report said.
Sellstrom pointed out that the report was only an interim document, and that other allegations needed to be examined.
“There have been other accusations presented to the UN secretary general, dating back to March, against both sides” in the war, he said earlier this month. AFP