Chemical inspectors launch probe in Syria after Western strikes


DAMASCUS, Apr 16 (TNS): International inspectors launched their investigation into an alleged chemical attack near Damascus that prompted an unprecedented wave of Western strikes against Syria s regime.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, the regime stop ally, warned that fresh strikes would spark “chaos”, but Washington promised economic sanctions on Moscow rather than further military action. US, French and British missiles destroyed sites suspected of hosting chemical weapons development and storage facilities Saturday, but the buildings were mostly empty and the Western trio swiftly reverted to its diplomatic efforts. US President Donald Trump lauded the “perfectly executed” strike, the biggest international attack on President Bashar al-Assad s regime during Syria s seven-year war, but both Damascus and Syria s opposition rubbished its impact.

A team of chemical experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, arrived in Damascus hours after the strikes. They have been tasked with investigating the site of the alleged April 7 attack in the town of Douma, just east of the capital Damascus, which Western powers said involved chlorine and sarin and killed dozens. They arrived in Damascus on Saturday but there were no reports they had travelled to Douma to begin their fieldwork, as announced by a senior Syrian official earlier. An AFP reporter saw Deputy Minister Faisal Mokdad enter the Four Seasons hotel where the chemical experts are staying and leave three hours later.

The fact-finding team usually starts its investigation by meeting top officials but any talks were held behind closed doors and both parties imposed a strict media blackout. We will ensure they can work professionally, objectively, impartially and free of any pressure,” Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan said……….AFP