Syria Chemical Strike Probe in Holding Pattern

Syria and the United Nations remain unable to come to terms on the scope for the international body's probe of an alleged chemical weapons strike in the civil war-torn nation, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The Assad government requested the investigation after 31 people were killed on March 19 in an apparent rocket attack on the town of Khan al-Assal. Rebels and the government have said the other is behind the incident.

Damascus wants the investigation limited to that event, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has indicated that investigators should also be allowed to look into reports of an earlier chemical incident in Homs.

"After the mission completes its work [in Khan al-Assal], and ascertaining its honesty and neutrality and the credibility of its work away from politicization, it may be possible to look into the Homs claims," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem stated in an April 6 missive to Ban.

Envoys from Western nations countered that the team need to receive full access to both locations from the start. Some investigators have deployed to Cyprus and could hit the ground in Syria within a day.

"They should not go in to investigate the one incident if they are told by the Syrians that they can't investigate the second incident," according to one high-level envoy. "So we would hope that the U.N. would not do that."

Should the deadlock persist, Ban could inform U.N. nations that Syria continues to block the probe, the source said. Witnesses in refugee camps outside of Syria could also be interviewed.

April 11, 2013
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Syria and the United Nations remain unable to come to terms on the scope for the international body's probe of an alleged chemical weapons strike in the civil war-torn nation, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

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