The world’s chemical-arms watchdog said it will send investigators to Syria to “establish facts” about reported chlorine-gas attacks in its civil war.
President Bashar Assad’s forces would escort international inspectors through regime-controlled areas of the devastated country under plans announced on Tuesday by Ahmet Üzümcü, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Assad’s government and opposition groups have accused each other of carrying out recent alleged attacks involving chlorine, a common industrial substance that the Middle Eastern nation is not required to relinquish under a disarmament plan formulated last year.
Personnel would “soon” travel to Syria to begin the probe, the chemical-arms agency said in a statement. The plan reportedly elicited statements of praise from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and from participants in a Tuesday meeting of the watchdog’s 41-nation governing board at The Hague, Netherlands.
Robert Mikulak, the U.S. ambassador to the chemical-controls organization, pressed the government in Damascus to “immediately and fully cooperate” with the planned investigation, and said the probe would examine claims of chlorine-gas attacks in the village of Kfar Zeita earlier this month.
The envoy added that a U.N.-OPCW disarmament oversight team should look into whether Damascus has reported its full inventory of chemical arms to international authorities.
“Up to this point, the elimination effort has been focused solely on the chemical weapons and associated equipment and facilities disclosed by Syria,” he said. “Additional attention will need to be focused on verifying the accuracy and completeness of Syria’s submissions.”
Mikulak also demanded “immediate and tangible” actions by Assad’s government to show it is committed to eliminating roughly 100 tons of remaining chemical-warfare materials. The substances represent the final 8 percent of declared chemical-arms materials still in regime custody. Assad agreed to dismantle the full stockpile after hundreds of people died from nerve-agent poisoning in August on the Syrian capital’s outskirts.
“Our understanding is that Syria has yet to even undertake the packing and other actions necessary to prepare the chemicals at the final site for transport,” Mikulak said in prepared remarks.
He urged Damascus to take actions such as eliminating its final stocks of weapon-usable isopropyl alcohol, “prepositioning transport equipment; decanting chemicals; [and] beginning packing and site preparations.”
The diplomat said Assad’s government should also hold “a readiness posture at the port of Latakia,” where foreign ships have been picking up chemical-warfare stocks for destruction at overseas locations.
What We're Following See More »
Donald Trump announced in a tweet on Saturday that he would not attend the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in April. The move did not come as a surprise, another moment in his ongoing battle with the media, which he has dubbed the "enemy" of the American people and repeatedly refers to as "fake news." Multiple outlets have already cancelled their events surrounding the dinner and several are considering skipping the event outright.
Phillip Bilden, Donald Trump's nominee for Navy secretary, has decided to withdraw his nomination after he was unable to sufficiently untangle his financial commitments. Bilden follows Vincent Viola, who withdrew his nomination for Army secretary.
"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."
Sen. Susan Collins, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, "said on Wednesday she's open to using a subpoena to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns for potential connections to Russia." She said the committee is also open to subpoenaing Trump himself. "This is a counter-intelligence operation in many ways," she said of Russia's interference. "That's what our committee specializes in. We are used to probing in depth in this area."