Chemical weapons watchdog has not yet begun work in Syrian town hit by toxic gas attack: Syrian envoy

Global chemical weapons experts finally reached the Syrian town of Douma on Tuesday (April 17), amid fears that evidence of an alleged chemical weapons attack there will now have been cleaned up.
The former Syrian town of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus, after the Syrian army declared that all anti-regime forces have left Eastern Ghouta, following a blistering two month offensive on the rebel enclave, on April 17, 2018.
The former Syrian town of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus, after the Syrian army declared that all anti-regime forces have left Eastern Ghouta, following a blistering two month offensive on the rebel enclave, on April 17, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Experts from chemical weapons watchdog OPCW are awaiting the green light from a UN security assessment team before beginning their investigation of an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma, the Syrian ambassador said on Tuesday (April 17).

The security team entered Douma earlier to determine whether the experts can deploy there on Wednesday, said Ambassador Bashar Jaafari.

"If this United Nations security team decides that the situation is sound in Douma, then the fact-finding mission will begin its work in Douma tomorrow," Mr Jaafari told the Security Council.

The Syrian state news agency earlier reported that the international team of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had entered Douma to begin their investigation of whether chemical agents were used as a weapon.

The ambassador stressed that the "Syrian government did all that it can do to facilitate the work of this mission", but that it was up to the United Nations and the OPCW to decide whether to deploy, based on security considerations.

The inspectors arrived in Damascus on Saturday, when Britain, France and the United States launched military strikes against what they said were targets linked to Syria's chemical weapons programme.

The suspected April 7 gas attack on Douma, near Damascus, reportedly left more than 40 people dead and was blamed by Western powers on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.