Syria invites global watchdog to probe chemical strike claims
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Syria invites global watchdog to probe chemical strike claims

Russia to ask UN Security Council for ‘transparent and honest’ investigation; Moscow envoy said to secretly visit Iran

Medical workers treating toddlers following an alleged poison gas attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, April. 8, 2018 (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)
Medical workers treating toddlers following an alleged poison gas attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, April. 8, 2018 (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)

Syria’s government has invited the global chemical watchdog to visit the rebel-held town where an alleged toxic gas attack killed dozens at the weekend, state media said Tuesday.

Syria has denied accusations it unleashed a gas attack on the town of Douma, the last opposition town in the battered enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

Citing a foreign ministry source, state news agency SANA said Syria was ready to cooperate with a fact-finding team.

“The ministry sent a formal invitation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to send a team from its fact-finding mission to visit Douma and investigate claims linked to the alleged use of chemical weapons there,” it said.

The letter said Syria was ready to “provide all necessary assistance to the mission.”

Regime ally Moscow said it would propose a UN resolution on a “transparent and honest” investigation with the OPCW’s involvement.

The OPCW’s fact-finding mission for Syria was established in 2014 to confirm chemical weapons use, but it does not have the mandate to establish who is responsible.

Syria’s letter came hours ahead of a United Nations Security Council meeting on rival proposals by Russia and the United States on chemical weapons use.

Russia said Syrian government troops could ensure the safety of OPCW experts if they were to travel to the scene, he added, criticizing previous investigations for having been conducted from a distance.

The OPCW already says it is investigating but that so far only a “preliminary analysis” had taken place.

At the same time Russia’s special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev reportedly visited Tehran in secret for discussions with the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani.

The Lebanese-based Al-Mayadeen news site, affiliated with the Hezbollah terror group, reported that the two held lengthy talks on the latest developments in Syria. These included the deadly airstrike on the Tiyas air base — also known as the T-4 air base — in central Syria attributed to the Israeli military, and US President Donald Trump’s threats following the attack on Douma.

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