A key international weapons inspector traveled to Damascus on Wednesday to discuss ground rules for a potential U.N. investigation of chemical arms strikes alleged to have taken place in Syria's civil war, the Associated Press reported.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem and various specialists were expected to meet with U.N. task force leader Ake Sellstrom and Angela Kane, U.N. high representative for disarmament affairs, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The meeting was expected to address numerous alleged chemical strikes, AP reported. Thirteen claims have been submitted to the United Nations, according to Tuesday comments by Robert Serry, U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.
President Bashar Assad's government, though, has so far only offered the United Nations access to the site of a purported March 19 chemical strike that it has blamed on the opposition.
Opposition forces on Monday took control of the village where the attack had allegedly taken place, diminishing the likelihood that any international chemical arms probe will move forward inside Syria, envoys told Agence-France-Presse.
Russia this month gave U.N. officials its own forensic analysis of the alleged strike at the village of Khan al-Assal. However, envoys said Moscow had omitted 10 pages from a version sent to the U.N. Security Council's other four permanent member nations: China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. They said the abridged text includes no data linking resistance fighters to the incident.
"We’re ready to make public our information. I hope that other people do the same,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday in remarks reported by ITAR-Tass. France, the United Kingdom and the United States have sent details from nine or more chemical strike claims to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, according to earlier reporting.
Meanwhile, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will not see his re-appointment blocked by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), USA Today reported on Tuesday. McCain last week threatened to hold up Dempsey's confirmation to a new two-year term because the top military officer had not provided his assessment of possible U.S. actions in Syria. Capitol Hill has since received that analysis, which McCain said described challenges for Washington's use of force "beyond anything that any rational military thinker that I know would ever contemplate."
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