In­spec­tors shut out of at­tack site

Taranaki Daily News - - World -

SYRIA: Syr­ian and Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties pre­vented in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors from go­ing to the scene of a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tack, the head of the chem­i­cal watch­dog group said yes­ter­day, block­ing in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to es­tab­lish what hap­pened and who was to blame.

The United States and France say they have ev­i­dence that poi­son gas was used in the April 7 at­tack in the op­po­si­tion-held town of Douma, which killed dozens of peo­ple, and that Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad’s mil­i­tary was be­hind it. They, along with Britain, have bom­barded sites they said were linked to Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons pro­gramme.

Syria and its ally Rus­sia deny that a chem­i­cal at­tack took place. Rus­sian of­fi­cials have gone even fur­ther, ac­cus­ing Britain of stag­ing a ‘‘fake’’ chem­i­cal at­tack.

The lack of ac­cess to Douma by in­spec­tors from the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW) has left unan­swered ques­tions about the at­tack.

OPCW Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral Ah­met Uzumcu said Syr­ian and Rus­sian of­fi­cials cited ‘‘pend­ing se­cu­rity is­sues’’ in keep­ing its in­spec­tors from reach­ing Douma. In­stead, Syr­ian au­thor­i­ties had of­fered them 22 peo­ple to in­ter­view as wit­nesses.

Uzumcu said he hoped ‘‘all nec­es­sary ar­range­ments will be made . . . to al­low the team to de­ploy to Douma as soon as pos­si­ble’’. Igor Kir­illov, a Rus­sian chem­i­cal weapons pro­tec­tion ex­pert in The Hague, said the team was set to visit the site to­mor­row.

Ear­lier, Rus­sian Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Ryabkov said the in­spec­tors could not go to the site be­cause they needed ap­proval from the United Na­tions Depart­ment for Safety and Se­cu­rity. He de­nied that Rus­sia was ham­per­ing the mis­sion, and sug­gested that ap­proval was held up be­cause of the West­ern air strikes.

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