DAMASCUS/UNITED NATIONS: United Nations inspectors have collected “considerable” evidence on a suspected chemical weapon attack in Syria and will brief U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon soon after they leave Saturday, a spokesman said.
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the team’s final report would depend on the lab results and that it could take “more than days” but that Ban expects an initial briefing soon after the experts leave Damascus.
“They have collected a considerable amount of evidence – evidence through samples, evidence through witness interviews – and they can construct through that a fact-based narrative that can get at the key facts of what happened on Aug. 21,” he said.
The team’s mandate is only to determine whether chemical weapons were used in an attack that reportedly killed hundreds of people last week. But Haq suggested that the findings might indicate who was behind the attack.
Some of the chemical weapons experts will personally take samples to laboratories around Europe, Haq added.
The inspectors toured stricken areas for a third day Thursday, interviewing doctors in the suburb of Zamalka east of Damascus.
Members of the rebel Free Syrian Army provided security for the U.N. inspectors, according to the Syrian National Coalition.
The inspectors’ weekend departure from Syria heightens the possibility of punitive strikes from Western countries.Ban suggested that Western powers hold off on any decisions until the inspectors had presented their findings.
Ban said he told U.S. President Barack Obama the U.N. investigators “should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states and I told him that we will surely share our information and our analysis.”
On the ground Thursday, a car bomb killed nine soldiers southeast of Damascus, triggering clashes between government troops and rebel fighters, an activist group reported.
“A car bomb exploded this morning at a military checkpoint in the town of Nabak, on the Homs-Damascus road,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that clashes erupted afterward and the Syrian army bombarded Nabak.
The Observatory also reported army shelling of the town of Ariha in the northwestern province of Idlib, where six women and two children were among 10 people killed.
The shelling prompted “an exodus” of residents from the town, it said.
In rebel-held Raqqa, two car bombs exploded, with the second killing six, including women and children, according to the Observatory.