UN experts leave Syria as US edges toward strike

2013-08-31 16:33
(Photo: file, AFP)

(Photo: file, AFP)

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Beirut - UN experts who collected samples from last week's alleged chemical weapons strike outside Damascus, left Syria for the Netherlands on Saturday, hours after President Barack Obama said he was weighing "limited and narrow" action against the Syrian regime his administration blames for the attack.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Obama not to rush into a decision.

The Russian leader said he was convinced the attack had been a provocation carried out by those who wanted to draw the US into the conflict, but that Washington should show any evidence to the contrary to the United Nations inspectors and the UN Security Council.

"If there is evidence it should be presented," Putin said.

"If it is not presented, that means it does not exist."

Russia is one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's staunchest allies.

Putin's comments were his first on the crisis since the suspected chemical weapons attack on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus on 21 August.

The UN inspectors spent three days this week touring stricken areas near Damascus and a fourth day interviewing patients at a government-run military hospital.

They wrapped up their investigation on Friday and left Syria via Lebanon on Saturday.

Later Saturday, the team was en route to the Dutch city of Rotterdam aboard a German government-chartered plane, the German Foreign Ministry said.


The experts took blood and urine samples from victims as well as soil samples from the affected areas for examination in laboratories in Europe.

The UN has said it will try to expedite its final report.

UN disarmament chief Angela Kane is to brief Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the investigation later on Saturday.

With the inspectors now out of Syria, the looming confrontation between the US and Assad's regime moves one step closer to coming to a head.

Most observers viewed US military action as unlikely while the UN team was still inside Syria, but the Obama administration has made clear that it is confident in its assessment and could act before the UN releases the results of its probe.

Obama has said that if he opts for a military strike, any operation would be limited in scope and only aimed at punishing Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons.

Read more on:    un  |  bashar assad  |  barack obama  |  ban ki-moon  |  vladimir putin  |  moscow  |  us  |  libya  |  syria conflict  |  syria

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