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UK: Chemical-Arms Inspectors Not Allowed Access To Douma

17 April 2018

A British representative to the OPCW noted that it is essential that the team be granted "unfettered access".

The weekend's airstrikes by the US, France and United Kingdom have increased worldwide tension, as the US and Russian Federation exchanged threats of retaliation. "It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site", US Ambassador Kenneth Ward said at an OPCW meeting in The Hague.

Syrian state media early Tuesday said air defence had shot down missiles over the central province of Homs, with the strikes reportedly targeting regime air bases.

The mission of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to probe the use of chemical weapons in Syria's Douma stalled on Monday amid U.S. accusations against Russian Federation that it meddled with the site of the attack.

The missiles that US, French, and British warships fired on suspected chemical facilities Saturday constituted the biggest Western attack against the regime in the seven-year war to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Despite a U.S. -Russian agreement to completely eliminate Syria's chemical weapons program after hundreds of people were gassed with sarin in Ghouta on August 21, 2013, the OPCW had been unable to verify that all manufacturing, storage and research facilities were destroyed.

At least 40 people are believed to have died on 7 April in Douma, which until Saturday was the last rebel-held town near the capital and the target of a government offensive in February and March that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands.

"Investigators will look for evidence that shows whether the incident site has been tampered with", Trapp said, adding that they will also have to find ways of authenticating evidence that it presented to by third parties.

It also slammed the United States, saying the weekend strikes on three facilities in Syria were a bid "to undermine the credibility" of the mission.

Separately, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the BBC, "I can guarantee that Russian Federation has not tampered with the site".

The targeted sites were largely empty but US President Donald Trump hailed a "perfectly executed" operation.

OPCW officials have carried out similar chemical checks in Syria.

Its mission, which was requested by the Syrian government, is to determine whether chemical weapons were used but not who the perpetrator was. "Suffocation cases arrived as a result of the debris, dust, fire and smoke".

But "strangers entered as we were in a state of chaos and spread a rumour among people there had been a chemical attack, and people became alarmed".

After the alleged toxic weapon attack, rebels agreed to evacuate.

UK: Chemical-Arms Inspectors Not Allowed Access To Douma