U.N. chemical arms investigator arrives in Syria to seek access

DAMASCUS Wed Jul 24, 2013 6:42am EDT

1 of 3. A Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover behind sandbags inside a room in a house in Deir al-Zor July 23, 2013. Picture taken July 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Khalil Ashawi

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DAMASCUS (Reuters) - The head of a U.N. chemical weapons investigation team arrived in Syria on Wednesday to discuss his inquiry into allegations that chemical arms have been used in Syria's civil war.

Ake Sellstrom's full team has not been allowed into Syria due to diplomatic wrangling over access. His mission this week aims to reach an agreement for it to start work in Syria.

Sellstrom, a Swede, is accompanied by the head of the U.N. Office of Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, who said on her arrival in Damascus that their mission was to prepare the ground for an investigation into chemical weapons use.

The team's visit is taking place at the invitation of the Syrian government and its members will meet Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem as well as technical experts.

Damascus has so far refused to let U.N. investigators go anywhere except Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province, where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and its Russian ally say rebels used chemical weapons in March.

Both sides deny using chemical weapons.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has insisted that his team be permitted to visit at least one other location, the city of Homs, site of an alleged chemical attack by government forces in December 2012.

(Reporting by Marwan Makdesi; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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