China supports U.N. investigation in Syria, urges caution

BEIJING Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:21am EDT

United Nations (U.N.) vehicles transport a team of U.N. chemical weapons experts to the scene of a poison gas attack outside the Syrian capital last week, in Damascus August 26, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

United Nations (U.N.) vehicles transport a team of U.N. chemical weapons experts to the scene of a poison gas attack outside the Syrian capital last week, in Damascus August 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China supports an independent and objective investigation by U.N. experts into allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, China's foreign minister said on Monday, while urging a cautious response and political resolution to the crisis.

"China has paid close attention to the reports of the use of chemical weapons inside Syria, and China resolutely opposes the use of chemical weapons no matter who uses them," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a statement on the ministry's website.

"China supports the U.N.'s secretariat to, in accordance with relevant U.N. resolutions, open an independent, objective, fair and professional investigation, to find out what really happened as soon as possible," Wang said.

U.N. inspectors left central Damascus on Monday to investigate sites of an alleged chemical weapons strike on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, after calls from Western powers for military action to punish what may be the world's worst chemical attack in 25 years.

Wang did not directly refer to the threats of military action, but urged a careful handling of the matter.

"The only way out for the Syrian issue is a political resolution," he said. "All parties ought to cautiously handle the Syrian chemical weapons issue to avoid interfering in (efforts) to resolve the Syrian issue politically."

Syria agreed on Sunday to allow the inspectors to visit the site. But the United States and its allies say evidence has probably been destroyed by heavy government shelling of the area over the past five days. It said the offer to allow inspectors came too late.

Major powers including Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main ally which has long blocked U.N.-sponsored intervention against him, have urged the Syrian leader to cooperate with U.N. chemical weapons inspectors already in Damascus to pursue earlier allegations.

China said last week that no side should rush to pre-judge the results of any investigation by U.N. chemical weapons experts in Syria, who it said should carry out an objective and impartial inquiry in consultation with the Syrian government.

Russia and China have both vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on 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 Robert Birsel)

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