Gas attack inspectors to leave Syria by Saturday: UN chief

A convoy of United Nations (UN) vehicles leave a hotel in Damascus on Monday, Aug 26, 2013, carrying UN inspectors as they travel to the site of a suspected deadly chemical weapon attack the previous week in Ghouta, east of the capital. A UN tea
A convoy of United Nations (UN) vehicles leave a hotel in Damascus on Monday, Aug 26, 2013, carrying UN inspectors as they travel to the site of a suspected deadly chemical weapon attack the previous week in Ghouta, east of the capital. A UN team of inspectors investigating an apparent poison gas attack in Syria will leave the country by Saturday morning, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said on Thursday, Aug 29, 2013, in Vienna. -- PHOTO: AFP

VIENNA (AFP) - A UN team of inspectors investigating an apparent poison gas attack in Syria will leave the country by Saturday morning, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said on Thursday in Vienna.

"They will continue investigation activities until tomorrow Friday and they will come out of Syria by Saturday morning and will report to me as soon as they come out," Mr Ban told journalists.

The UN chief also said he had spoken on Wednesday to US President Barack Obama, as the United States appears to be moving closer to a military strike.

"I... expressed my sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states," Mr Ban said.

"We discussed how the UN and the world can work together particularly with the United States, (and) how we can expedite the process of investigation," he added.

Mr Ban has repeatedly spoken out against military action in Syria.

But while he called for peace, he also urged those who may have used chemical weapons to be held responsible.

"Diplomacy should be given a chance... peace (should) be given a chance," he said.

He added: "The use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any reason, under any circumstances, is a crime against humanity and that must be held accountable for."

A team of UN inspectors has been investigating this week an alleged poison gas attack near Damascus on Aug 21, that the Syrian opposition says may have killed hundreds.

The Syrian government and the opposition have accused each other over the attack, which, if confirmed, would be the deadliest use of such weapons since Saddam Hussein gassed Iraqi Kurds in 1988.