U.N. experts to return Wednesday to Syria, Russia says

SYRIA CONFLICT

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (right) and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov meet in Damascus on Sept. 17. U.N. inspectors will travel Wednesday to Damascus to continue their investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Ryabkov said Tuesday. EFE/File
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem (right) and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov meet in Damascus on Sept. 17. U.N. inspectors will travel Wednesday to Damascus to continue their investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Ryabkov said Tuesday. EFE/File

— U.N. inspectors will travel Wednesday to Damascus to continue their investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

"We're pleased that our calls for U.N. experts to return to Syria to investigate other episodes (of chemical weapons use) have borne fruit. According to our latest information, the group of (Swedish professor Ake) Sellström will travel to Damascus tomorrow, Sept. 25," Riabkov was quoted as telling the Russian lower house of Parliament.

Two days ago, the United Nations said its experts would travel to the Arab nation's capital to negotiate with Syrian authorities the terms and conditions of a mission to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in that country.

While some Western and Arab countries place all the responsibility for chemical weapons use on Syrian President Bashar alAssad's government, Damascus and Russia say rebel fighters in Syria's civil war are to blame.

On July 9, Russia delivered to the United Nations the results of an independent investigation that found that the Syrian opposition used chemical agents in a March attack in Aleppo province.

"The arguments put forth by the U.S. raise serious doubts, both from a technical standpoint and from the logical and rational point of view," Riabkov said in a special session of the lower house of Russia's parliament on the Syrian conflict.

The highranking diplomat also slammed as "hasty" the conclusions reached by Western nations in the wake of a U.N. inspection in Ghouta, on Damascus' outskirts. The experts found that chemical weapons were used there in an Aug. 21 attack that killed hundreds, after which the West and the Syrian opposition said those findings supported their allegations against Assad.

He also reiterated that the resolution on Syria that the U.N. Security Council is seeking to approve "cannot include automatic sanctions" against Damascus in the event on noncompliance with a U.S.Russian deal earlier this month to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal by mid2014.

"Chapter 7 (of the U.N. Statutes, which authorizes the use of force to impose peace) can only be mentioned as one of several possible measures in case .... of a refusal to cooperate, noncompliance with commitments, or if someone, it doesn't matter who, uses chemical weapons," Ryabkov added.

His remarks came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov traveled Tuesday to New York to take part in the U.N. General Assembly and draft a U.N. Security Council Resolution backing the Syrian weapons deal.

 
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