China says no side should pre-judge Syria chemical probe

BEIJING Fri Aug 23, 2013 5:11am EDT

A boy, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, is treated at a medical center in the Damascus suburbs of Saqba, August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

A boy, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, is treated at a medical center in the Damascus suburbs of Saqba, August 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Bassam Khabieh

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Friday that no side should rush to pre-judge the results of any probe by U.N. chemical weapons experts in Syria, after Syria's opposition accused government forces of using such weapons in an attack on civilians.

The United Nations has demanded Syria give its chemical weapons experts immediate access to rebel-held Damascus suburbs where poison gas appears to have killed hundreds just a few miles from the U.N. team's hotel.

"The U.N. inspection team has already gone to Syria to start their probe, and (China) hopes and believes they can fully consult with the Syrian government to ensure the smooth progress of the investigation work," China's Foreign Ministry said.

"We believe that before the investigation ascertains what really happened, all sides should avoid prejudging the outcome," it added in a statement on its website.

China supports an "objective, impartial and professional investigation" and resolutely opposes any side using chemical weapons, the ministry added.

"The present situation once again shows that the importance and urgency of pushing for a political resolution to the Syrian question."

Moscow and Beijing have both vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But China has been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change. It has said a transitional government should be formed.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)