The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

August 25, 2013

Syria agrees to UN probe of purported attacks

Syria alleged to have used chemical weapons on its civilians

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria reached an agreement with the United Nations on Sunday to allow a U.N. team of experts to visit the site of alleged chemical weapons attacks last week outside Damascus, state media said.

In a statement read out on state TV, the presenter said the Syrian government and the U.N. are working to set the date and time of the visit to the agreed upon locations near the capital purportedly hit by chemical agents on Aug. 22. The alleged chemical attack that activists say killed hundreds of civilians in rebel-held areas around Damascus took place on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

The Associated Press asked the Foreign Ministry about the discrepancy in the dates. The ministry replied that the statement was correct.

Syrian state television said the deal was struck during a meeting between Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and U.N. disarmament chief Angela Kane.

The U.S., Britain, France and Russia have all called on both the Syrian government and the rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad's regime to cooperate with the U.N. and facilitate an investigation into the purported use of chemical arms last week in the suburbs of Damascus.

Confirming whether chemical weapons were indeed used last week carries enormous stakes, and could play a huge role in determining the future course of the conflict. The purported use of toxic gas on the rebel-held suburbs on Wednesday has renewed debate about the possible use of outside force in Syria's civil war.

France has said that if an independent investigation confirms that chemical weapons were indeed employed, then military force could be used in Syria.

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