Syria remains "ready" to admit U.N. inspectors to examine claims of chemical arms being used in the country's 2-year-old civil war, a senior diplomat said in a Thursday report by the London Independent.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad's assertion came weeks after President Bashar Assad's government called for an international probe into an alleged March 19 gas attack reported to have killed about 30 people in the town of Khan al-Assal. The regime has not allowed entry by a U.N. team that seeks to also investigate claims of several additional chemical attacks dating back to late 2012; investigators have waited in Cyprus for over a month to enter Syria.
Damascus and Syrian opposition forces have each blamed the other side for conducting the purported strikes. The United States and other nations have said there is reason to believe that chemical weapons have been used in the conflict.
The U.N. effort appears to have little chance of yielding insight on the claims, Federation of American Scientists specialist Charles Blair said in a Thursday Voice of America report. Pictures taken from the sky and at medical centers form much of the basis for Israeli charges of chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime, while corresponding British and French claims are based largely on eyewitness accounts and blood analyses, he said.
The blood samples are of questionable worth because they are thought to have been provided by the opposition and "the rebels have everything to gain in framing the Assad government,” Blair said. A U.S. "covert team" could clear up uncertainties by independently obtaining materials for U.S. or British analysis, but the Obama administration does not appear willing to carry out such an operation, he said.
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in remarks aired on Thursday said "it is clear the [Assad] regime has used chemical weapons."
"There are patients who are brought to our hospitals who were wounded by these chemical weapons," Erdogan told NBC News.
An insider in Turkey told CNN the country is providing care to roughly 10 people with ailments indicating possible exposure to a chemical warfare agent. "They were not injured by any kind of conventional arms," and analytical findings informed Erdogan's comments, the speaker said in comments reported on Friday.
Elsewhere, Muqdad said his nation would "respond immediately" to any new Israeli strikes inside his country, Agence France-Presse reported.
Two reported Israeli attacks in recent days "absolutely did not achieve their objective" -- said to be destruction of missiles being transported to the militant organization Hezbollah, the official said. "Syria will [not] allow this to happen again," he added.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday said an international forum planned by Washington and Moscow would undoubtedly result in Assad's removal from power, the Los Angeles Times reported. "There is no way that anybody here believes that the opposition is ever going to give consent to President Assad to be running that government," he said.
The bilateral effort has received a tepid overall response from rebels, and a number of anti-Assad figures have ruled out negotiations with the leader.