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Chemical weapons team kept from alleged attack site

Jamaica Gleaner / DOUMA (AP):

Syrian and Russian authorities prevented independent investigators from going to the scene of a suspected chemical attack, the head of the chemical watchdog group said yesterday, blocking international efforts to establish what happened and who was to blame.

The United States and France say they have evidence that poison gas was used in the April 7 attack in the opposition-held town of Douma, killing dozens of people, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military was behind it.

But they have made none of that evidence public, even after they, along with Britain, bombarded sites they said were linked to Syria’s chemical weapons programme.

Syria and its ally Russia deny any chemical attack took place, and Russian officials went even further, accusing Britain of staging a ‘fake’ chemical attack. British Prime Minister Theresa May accused the two countries – whose forces now control the town east of Damascus – of trying to cover up evidence.

The lack of access to Douma by inspectors from the watchdog group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has left unanswered questions about the attack.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said Syrian and Russian officials cited “pending security issues” in keeping its inspectors from reaching Douma.

“The team has not yet deployed to Douma,” Uzumcu told an executive council of the OPCW in The Hague. 

Instead, Syrian authorities offered them 22 people to interview as witnesses, he said, adding that he hoped “all necessary arrangements will be made … to allow the team to deploy to Douma as soon as possible.”

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