Thu, Apr 19, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Chemical weapons team visit to Syria on hold after gunfire

Reuters, THE HAGUE, Netherlands

A visit by international chemical weapons inspectors to the location of a suspected poison gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma on Tuesday has been delayed after gunfire at the site during a visit by a UN security team, sources told reporters.

The UN security team entered Douma to assess the situation ahead of the planned visit by inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) international watchdog, said the sources, who had been briefed on the team’s deployment.

One source told reporters that the advance team had “encountered a security issue,” including gunfire, which led to the delay, but could not provide additional details.

Another said they had been met by protesters demanding aid and that gunfire was heard. The UN then left.

The Syrian ambassador to the UN on Tuesday said the fact-finding mission would begin its work in Douma yesterday if the UN security team deemed the situation there safe.

Separately, a UN source said the OPCW inspectors would probably not be going to Douma yesterday.

The UN source did not give details of the shooting incident.

The UN source did not say when the inspectors might visit the site or whether a planned visit to Douma had been postponed.

The inspectors arrived in Damascus over the weekend.

The suspected chemical attack on April 7 killed dozens of people in Douma, medical relief organizations say.

It led to the rebel group that controlled Douma agreeing to surrender control of the town to the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov is to hold talks with UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura tomorrow, the RIA news agency reported, citing the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I confirm that these talks are planned for Friday,” Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

De Mistura is conducting an intensive round of talks with world powers with a view to relaunching stalled peace talks between Damascus and the armed opposition, his office said in Geneva, Switzerland.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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