Inspectors shut out of attack site
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.
Syrian state-run media reported that the country’s air defences confronted a new ‘‘aggression’’, shooting down missiles over the central region of Homs yesterday.
The reports did not say who carried out the pre-dawn strikes, which targeted the Shayrat air base in Homs.