Syria rules out chemical weapon inspection across territory
DAMASCUS - Syria will not accept a chemical weapons team, as proposed by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, to probe the alleged use of chemical weapons in the country's conflict, the foreign ministry said on Monday.
Ban has "suggested a supplementary mission allowing the mission to deploy throughout Syrian territory, which is contrary to the demand Syria made to the United Nations," a ministry official said, cited by state news agency SANA.
He said "Syria cannot accept such manoeuvres on the part of the UN secretariat general, bearing in mind the negative role that it played in Iraq and which cleared the way to the American invasion" of that country in 2003.
The foreign ministry "regretted" that Ban had "given in to pressure from states known for their support of the bloodshed" in Syria, he said, referring to supporters of the two-year-old revolt in the country.
He said Syria had specifically requested "a neutral and honest technical team to visit the village of Khan al-Assal" in the northern province of Aleppo.
Ban said earlier on Monday that a UN inspection team was in Cyprus and ready to deploy to nearby Syria to probe the alleged use of chemical weapons in the conflict.
"I can announce today that an advance team is now in Cyprus, the final staging point" before the mission heads to Syria, Ban said in The Hague.
"The UN is now in the position to deploy in Syria -- in less than 24 hours all logistical arrangements will in place," Ban said after President Bashar al-Assad called on the UN to probe allegations rebels had used chemical weapons.
"All we are waiting for is the go-ahead of the Syrian government to determine if any chemical weapons have been deployed," he added. "We are still in the process of discussing it with the Syrian government."
Syria asked for the investigation into its allegation that the opposition had used chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal on March 19. The rebels charge that government forces had deployed the munitions.