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U.N.: Completion of probe on Syria chemical weapons days away

August 31, 2013|By Paul Richter
  • Headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague.
Headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons… (Evert-Jan Daniels / AFP/Getty…)

WASHINGTON – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was briefed Saturday by his arms control advisor on results of the United Nation’s probe of the alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack, but aides said completion of the much-anticipated report on the attack remains days away.

Martin Nesirky, Ban’s chief spokesman, told reporters in New York that Ban met Saturday morning with U.N. arms control chief Angela Kane, and will be briefed Sunday by Ake Sellstrom, chief of the inspection team.

But Nesirky said that despite calls for a swift unveiling of the results, there was “no timeline” for completion of the report.

The inspection team “has just left Syria with the information and evidence and samples…and needs now to analyze before coming up with its findings. And they will do that as soon as possible,” Nesirky said.

The evidence includes soil and human tissue samples, as well as interviews with Syrian witnesses and humanitarian workers.

A number of countries, including Russia, Britain and Germany, contend that world powers should assess the study’s results before embarking on any military campaign. But U.S. officials contend proof that Syria carried out the attack is already definitive, and that the United Nations Security Council will never bless an attack in any case because of Russian “obstructionism.”

Nesirky bridled at suggestions in the press that departure of the U.N. inspectors would open the way for a U.S. attack.

Such suggestions are “grotesque and an affront to the more than 1,000 U.N. staff that are on the ground in Syria,” he said.

Nesirky’s comments pointed to one of the complications Obama faces in devising his attack plan.

The Pentagon will want to avoid inflicting casualties on aid workers as well as the hundreds of rebel captives who are imprisoned at Syrian military bases, as well as civilians.

Nesirky said Ban's view on the attack was that the United States should abide by the U.N. charter, meaning that it should take no action absent a Security Council resolution.

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paul.richter@latimes.com

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