Head of UN probe into chemical weapons use in Syria says preparatory work has begun

A busy thoroughfare in the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo. Photo: UNESCO/Ron Van Oers

27 March 2013 – The newly-appointed head of the United Nations investigation into allegations of reported chemical weapons use in Syria says that preparations for the probe have begun and the mission could start in a week or two.

“The mission will happen in a week’s time or so,” Swedish scientist Åke Sellström said in an interview with UN Radio yesterday. “It’s a matter of days.”

Mr. Sellström was appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to head the UN fact-finding mission, which was launched following a formal request from the Syrian Government.

The initial focus of the investigation will be an incident involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in Kfar Dael region in Khan Al-Asal area in Aleppo governorate.

“The investigation mission is to look into the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian Government,” Mr. Ban said last week when he announced the investigation. “I am, of course, aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons,” he added.

Mr. Sellström, currently a project manager at a Swedish research institute, said that the members of the mission will consist of international organizations and that they have all been nearly chosen.

“There’s a lot of preparatory work,” he noted. “Then we also have to rely on the security situation to allow us to do the mission.”

Following the preparatory work, the mission will have three or four days of inspections, and then two to three weeks of report writing and chemical analysis, he added.

UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky, speaking at a news conference in New York today, reiterated that the investigation is of a very specific nature.

“It is not the role of this mission to apportion responsibility or blame,” he stated. “It’s not a criminal investigation. It’s looking at whether chemical weapons were used, and not by whom.”


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Ban appoints Swedish scientist to lead probe into alleged chemical weapons use in Syria

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