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U.N. mission in Syria to investigate use of chemical weapons

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Damascus, Aug 18 (EFE).- The U.N. mission tasked with investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria finally entered the country on Sunday after having postponed their visit several times due to logistical problems, a U.N. spokesman told Efe.

The team crossed the border from Lebanon and arrived at a hotel in the Syrian capital before beginning their investigation on the ground, the source said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last Wednesday announced an agreement with the Syrian government to allow an independent mission to investigate three possible cases of chemical weapons use.

The team led by Ake Sellström, the former U.N. chemical weapons inspector in Iraq, has been ready since April to go to Syria but he was not able to do so because of disagreements between the international organization and the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad.

To break the impasse, the U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, and Sellström visited Damascus on July 24 to meet with Syrian authorities to go over the details of deploying the mission.

The experts comprising the investigation team come from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health Organization.

Both the Damascus regime and the Syrian rebels fighting to topple it have accused each other of using chemical weapons.

One of the sites the investigators will examine will be the town of Khan al-Asal, in the southern province of Aleppo, where - the regime says - 26 people died in March in an alleged rebel attack with chemical substances.

Syria is one of seven countries who have not signed the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.

Since the start of the civil war in the Arab nation, in March 2011, more than 100,000 people have died and almost 7 million need emergency humanitarian aid, according to the latest U.N. figures.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/130818/un-mission-syria-investigate-use-chemical-weapons