Syria blocks chem­i­cal weapons in­spec­tors from site of at­tack

Rus­sian of­fi­cials help regime keep OPCW from check­ing out Douma

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - John Ba­con and Kim Hjelm­gaard USA TO­DAY HAS­SAN AM­MAR/AP

The in­ter­na­tional chem­i­cal weapons watch­dog that sent a fact-find­ing team to Syria said Mon­day that Syr­ian and Rus­sian of­fi­cials blocked ef­forts to reach the site where rebels claim gov­ern­ment forces un­leashed chem­i­cal weapons against civil­ians.

The Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons said the team ar­rived in Da­m­as­cus on Satur­day and met with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to work out a plan for de­ploy­ment to Douma.

The Syr­ian and the Rus­sian of­fi­cials in­formed the team that “pend­ing se­cu­rity is­sues” needed to be worked out be­fore the group went to Douma, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s di­rec­tor gen­eral, Ah­met Uzumcu, told an emer­gency meet­ing of the group’s ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil in The Hague, Nether­lands.

“I hope that all nec­es­sary ar­range­ments will be made through the (U.N. Depart­ment of Safety and Se­cu­rity) to al­low the team to de­ploy to Douma as soon as pos­si­ble,” Uzumcu said.

Rus­sia ini­tially blamed the de­lay on the United Na­tions, say­ing it had not pro­vided the proper ap­provals. The U.N. Depart­ment of Safety and Se­cu­rity, how­ever, said it had pro­vided the nec­es­sary clear­ances.

Rus­sian then blamed se­cu­rity prob­lems on the heels of last week’s joint, re­tal­ia­tory mis­sile strikes con­ducted by the U.S., Britain and France tar­get­ing Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons fa­cil­i­ties.

Uzumcu said the Syr­i­ans had agreed to let the fact-find­ing team in­ter­view 22 wit­nesses who would be brought to Da­m­as­cus. But he stressed the need for the team to in­ves­ti­gate the site.

The rebel Syria Civil De­fense Force says more than 40 peo­ple were killed and en­tire fam­i­lies gassed to death in the at­tack, which drew global out­rage. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump blasted “that an­i­mal” Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad and said blame also fell on Rus­sia and Iran for sup­port­ing his regime. In ad­di­tion to the mis­sile strike in Syria, eco­nomic sanc­tions could be placed on Rus­sia, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has said.

Syria and Rus­sia have stead­fastly de­nied the chem­i­cal weapons al­le­ga­tions. Both coun­tries had in­vited the weapons watch­dog group to send in the in­ves­tiga­tive team.

In Lon­don, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May ac­cused Syria, sup­ported by Rus­sia, of try­ing to con­ceal de­tails of the at­tack in Douma. She also de­nied that Britain joined in mil­i­tary re­sponse sim­ply at the be­hest of Trump. May said there was “clear ev­i­dence” Syria was be­hind the at­tack.

“No other group could have car­ried this out,” May said.

Sher­ine Tadros, head of Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s U.N. Of­fice in New York, urged Syria to al­low the in­spec­tors into Douma.

“The OPCW team must be granted full and un­fet­tered ac­cess to the site in Douma with­out fur­ther de­lay,” Tadros said in a state­ment. “Their in­ves­ti­ga­tion is cru­cial in un­cov­er­ing the ex­act cir­cum­stances be­hind the ap­palling images that united the world in hor­ror this month.”

A man rides past de­struc­tion Mon­day in Douma, Syria, the site of a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tack.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.