UNITED NATIONS, United States / United States: UN chief Ban Ki-moon insisted Monday that UN experts be granted unrestricted access to Syrian sites under investigation for chemical weapons use as they began their mission.
Ban added that "the government and all other entities within Syria must ensure the safety and security of the mission."
He said investigators will collect samples as well as conduct interviews and examine witnesses, victims, and attending medical personnel.
The team will also conduct post-mortem examinations.
Ban emphasized that the mission would not determine who used chemical weapons but only whether chemical weapons were used. He said he hoped findings would help deter use in the future.
"In order to credibly establish the facts, the mission must have full access to the sites of the alleged incidents," he said.
Ban said the team will "investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons" at three sites including Khan al-Assal near Aleppo, where the Syrian regime claims rebels used chemical weapons on March 19, killing 26 people including 16 Syrian soldiers.
According to the opposition, the regime and President Bashar al-Assad were responsible for the attack.
The UN has not confirmed the location of the other two sites.
"If confirmed, the use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances must be held accountable and would constitute an international crime," Ban affirmed.
The UN team is composed of a dozen inspectors and is conducted by Swedish expert Aake Sellstrom. The investigation will occur over a 14-day span that began Monday, with the possibility for extension if agreed by mutual consent.