UN chemical weapons inspectors in Syria are investigating seven cases of alleged chemical or biological weapons use, including three incidents around Damascus after the Aug. 21 attack which almost triggered US air strikes.
The inspectors expect to finalize their work in Syria on Monday and issue a report by late October that will give more details of the Aug. 21 incident which they have already said involved the use of sarin gas, a statement from the United Nations in Damascus said on Friday.
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The United States and its Western allies said the initial report showed Damascus was behind the attack, which killed hundreds of people. President Bashar Assad's government has denied the accusation, blaming rebels instead.
The incidents also include an alleged chemical weapons attack in March in the northern town of Khan al-Assal, where authorities say rebels killed 25 people, including 16 soldiers. Rebels said government forces were behind it.
The two other cases from earlier this year both date back to April - one in the Aleppo district of Sheikh Maqsoud and another in the town of Saraqeb in the northern province of Idlib.
The three most recent incidents were in Bahhariyeh and Jobar, both east of central Damascus, on Aug. 22 and 24, and Ashrafiat Sahnaya to the southwest of the capital on Aug. 25, the UN statement said.
Meanwhile, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock, the United States and Russia agreed on a UN Security Council draft resolution that would demand Syria give up its chemical arms, but does not threaten military force if it fails to comply.
Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said a deal was struck with Russia "legally obligating" Syria to give up its chemical stockpile and the measure went to the full Security Council in a closed-door meeting on Thursday night. UN diplomats said a vote could come within 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on Friday that US and Russian officials believe the vast majority of Syria’s nerve agent stockpile consists of “unweaponized” liquid precursors that could be neutralized relatively quickly, lowering the risk that the toxins could be hidden away by the regime or stolen by terrorists.
The report said a confidential assessment by the United States and Russia also concludes that Syria’s entire arsenal could be destroyed in about nine months, assuming that the regime in Damascus honors promises to cede control of the chemical assets to international inspectors.
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