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Syria, rebels seek world action on chemical arms

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Syria's regime and rebels on Wednesday called for international investigations into an attack a day earlier in which each side accuses the other of having used chemical weapons.

State news agency SANA quoted the foreign ministry as saying "the government of the Syrian Arab Republic has requested that the secretary general of the United Nations form a specialist technical mission that is independent and impartial to investigate the terrorist use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal."

The opposition National Coalition, meanwhile, urged a "full international investigation" into the attack on the village in Aleppo province a day earlier.

"The Coalition demands a full international investigation, and asks for a delegation to be sent to inquire and visit the site," the group said in a statement.

"All evidence now indicates that the Assad regime is using these weapons against its own people. Testimonies and images from the attacks today demonstrate that these banned weapons have been used in what amounts to a crime against humanity."

On Tuesday, Syria's foreign minister sent a message to the United Nations, saying the international community "had encouraged terrorists to commit their crimes in Khan al-Assal."

"The appeals by European countries and the Arab League to arm the terrorist groups has encouraged these groups to move forward and committ their odious crime on Tuesday morning," Walid Muallem said.

He repeated that the Syrian regime "will not use (its) chemical weapons, if they exist, against its own people," adding that the regime "will continue to pursue the terrorists and those who support them."

"Syria demands that the international community act seriously and firmly to prevent these terrorist groups from continuing to commit their dangerous crimes against the Syrian people."

On Tuesday, Damascus accused rebel forces of launching a missile "containing chemical materials," with its allies Russia and Iran condemning opposition forces over the alleged attack.

But opposition forces denied firing chemical weapons, instead accusing the regime of having itself used the banned weapons.

Washington said there was no evidence that rebels had fired chemical weapons, but said it would consult its allies on claims that the regime had used the arms.

rm-sah/srm

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130320/syria-rebels-seek-world-action-chemical-arms