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Chemical weapons team in Syria 'safe'

27 May 2014, 19:54

The Hague - The world's chemical weapons watchdog said on Tuesday that a convoy of its inspectors overseeing the dismantling of Syria's weapons programme had come under attack, but all were safe.

"All team members are safe and well and heading back to their operating base," said Michael Luhan, spokesperson for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The Syrian foreign ministry reported earlier that six investigators had been kidnapped with their Syrian drivers while on a fact-finding mission in the central province of Hama.

The team had been investigating allegations that Syrian government forces unleashed a chlorine attack on a rebel-held village in Hama province last month.

If confirmed, the attack would be in breach of Syria's commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Syrian government signed the convention last year as part of a Russian- and US-brokered deal under which it pledged to destroy its entire chemical arsenal.

Syria was not required to declare its stockpile of chlorine - a toxic but weak agent - as it is widely used for commercial and domestic purposes.

But its use for military purposes would still be a breach of Damascus's undertakings under the convention.

OPCW director Ahmed Uzumcu urged all parties in the Syrian conflict to co-operate and ensure the weapons inspectors could do their job under difficult conditions.

"Our inspectors are in Syria to establish the facts in relation to persistent allegations of chlorine gas attacks," he said.

"Their safety is our primary concern, and it is imperative that all parties to the conflict grant them safe and secure access," Uzumcu said.



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