Chemical Weapons Watchdog in Syria to Begin Probe on Wednesday


A United Nations security team will inspect the route to Douma, a suburb of the capital, Damascus, before the fact-finding mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons goes there, Tass reported, citing Russian General Igor Kirillov.

Ambassador Peter Wilson told reporters that OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü had said the departure of a team of inspectors was delayed after an incident in which an advance United Nations security detail performing reconnaissance in Douma was forced to withdraw after being fired upon.

He also said the goal that the U.S., Britain and France have spoken of - to put Syrian President Bashar Assad on trial following peace negotiations - "is simply unrealistic".

Russian Federation has clashed again with the United States and its Western allies over Syria, saying airstrikes on suspected chemical sites in the war-torn nation have set back any political negotiations to end the seven-year conflict.

Asked about the draft text, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told AFP that it was "untimely", indicating Moscow was not ready to engage with the West on Syria after the military strikes.

In April a year ago, Shayrat airbase was targeted by US Tomahawk cruise missiles in a strike ordered by President Donald Trump in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhun in Idlib in north-western Syria.

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The Syrian army began preparatory shelling on Tuesday for an assault on the last area outside its control near Damascus, a commander in the pro-government alliance said.

However, on Monday the regime escorted a group of journalists into Douma, a city north-east of Damascus, including to the hospital at the centre of the claims, to interview local residents who had remained behind after the rebels holding it surrendered.

Opposition forces say Dumair airport had been used in the military campaign to regain eastern Ghouta, a rebel enclave on the outskirts of Damascus.

Nebenzia said the Western allies should also end "hateful rhetoric" against Syria and Russian Federation, separate military groups "from terrorists once and for all", and provide humanitarian assistance to Syria. State television said on Tuesday that rebels in Dumayr had also agreed to withdraw. The Western allies say they have proof that President Bashar Assad's government was to blame and staged airstrikes on Syrian chemical sites Friday.

The Pentagon denied any American military activity in the area.