UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pressed UN chemical weapons inspectors to speed up their verdict on a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, his spokesman said yesterday.
Samples collected in Syria will start to be sent to European laboratories from today.
The UN also revealed that two Syrian government officials are observing the handling of evidence collected during the UN investigation into the August 21 attack near Damascus that prompted Western threats of a military strike on President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Ban spoke to UN chemical weapons inquiry chief Ake Sellstrom yesterday, the UN spokesman, Martin Nesirky, told reporters.
“In light of the horrendous magnitude of the August 21 incident,” Ban asked Sellstrom “to expedite the mission’s analysis of the samples and information it had obtained without jeopardizing the scientific timelines required for accurate analysis,” Nesirky said.
“They discussed ways to further accelerate the process,” he added.
The United Nations has refused to announce its timeline for finishing the analysis. Ban told envoys from the UN Security Council’s five permanent members last Friday that it could be ready in two weeks, diplomats said.
Waiting for Congress
Meanwhile, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said yesterday that France will not launch an assault on Syria alone and will wait for the US Congress to decide whether to punish Assad’s government for the gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians.
French President Francois Hollande has backed US President Barack Obama’s call for a military strike in retaliation for the alleged chemical weapons attack.
Francois Fillon, France’s ex-prime minister and a leading figure in the opposition UMP party, said yesterday that parliament should vote on the issue, telling the Journal du Dimanche newspaper: “In the current circumstances, France cannot go to war without the clear support of parliament.”
France’s parliament is due to debate the issue on Wednesday, but no vote is scheduled.
Another French opposition figure, prominent politician Francois Bayrou, said in an open letter in the newspaper that it would be “unthinkable” for Hollande to act without consulting parliament.
The head of parliament’s defense committee, Patricia Adam, told the newspaper that she “doesn’t see any reason why parliament wouldn’t get a say now when others do.”