UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the UN weapons inspection team will continue their investigations until Friday. They plan to leave Syria on Saturday.
Speaking in Vienna, Ban asked for time for the team to finish its work, including analysing biological samples after they leave:
“They will continue investigation activities until tomorrow, Friday, and they will come out of Syria by Saturday morning and will report to me as soon as they come out of Syria,” he said.
Syria has blamed the rebels for last week’s attack near Damascus in which hundreds died, but London, Paris and Washington say they have little doubt it was a chemical attack by Assad’s forces.
Speaking on PBS television on Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said the use of these kinds of weapons has had an impact on U.S. national interests:
“Again, I have not made a decision but I think it’s important that if in fact we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal that it had better not do it again,” he said.
Russia and Iran, key Syria allies, have warned against premature conclusions over who was responsible.
Meanwhile, military activity was seen at a key U.S. air force base in Turkey’s Incirlik on Thursday. U.S. F-16 jets remain in Jordan after an exercise earlier this year and Britain, like the U.S. has warships in the Mediterranean. It also has an air base on Cyprus, 200 km from the Syrian coast.
France has said it is ready to punish those behind the chemical attack, but Britain changed its stance on Wednesday (August 28) saying the UN Security Council should first see the weapons inspectors’ findings and that the British parliament would hold two votes before any military action is taken.
Western officials believe Syria retains considerable stocks including VX gas, regarded as much more lethal than the sarin suspected to have been used in last week’s attack.
Such worries were a major factor in Turkey and Jordan requesting U.S. and NATO patriot missile batteries now based along the border to shoot down enemy missiles.