Tuesday 17 September 2019

Moscow warned not to interfere with probe into chemical attack

US President Donald Trump: Administration accused Russia. AP Photo/Alex Brandon
US President Donald Trump: Administration accused Russia. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Idrees Ali in Washington

The Pentagon cautioned Russia yesterday not to tamper with the site of an alleged gas attack in Syria's Aleppo and allow investigators to inspect the site.

The global chemical weapons agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), has said it will investigate the alleged gas attack in Aleppo on Saturday that reportedly sickened up to 100 people. The Syrian government and its ally, Russia, blamed the attack on insurgents.

The Syrian government, which accused rebels of firing chlorine, asked the OPCW to send a fact-finding mission.

"We caution Russia against tampering with another suspected chemical weapons attack site and urge Russia to secure the safety of the OPCW inspectors so these allegations can be investigated in a fair and transparent manner," Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson said.

In April, US President Donnald Trump's administration accused Russia of blocking international inspectors from reaching the site of a suspected poison gas attack in Syria's Douma and said Russians or Syrians may have tampered with evidence on the ground.

The OPCW will be able not only to determine whether a chemical weapons attack occurred but also to assign blame.

That responsibility had fallen to a joint UN-OPCW mission until Russia blocked a UN Security Council resolution to extend its mandate.

Past investigations by the joint mission found Syrian government forces had used chlorine and sarin several times in the civil war, while the Islamist militant group Islamic State was found to have used sulphur mustard gas once.

A health official in Aleppo said victims had suffered breathing difficulties, eye inflammation and other symptoms that suggested the use of chlorine gas, which is banned.

Irish Independent

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