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Thursday, April 18, 2013 - Page updated at 06:00 a.m.

UN: Syria bars entry of chemical weapons team

By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN
Associated Press

Syria has still not allowed a team of experts into the country despite its call for the United Nations to investigate alleged chemical weapons use by rebels, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday.

Syria has asked the U.N. to investigate a chemical weapons attack in March on the village of Khan al-Assal outside of Aleppo, which the regime blames on rebels and the rebels blame on regime forces.

Ban is urging the Syrian government to accept an expanded U.N. probe into alleged chemical weapons use, saying he has concluded that a claimed attack in Homs in December also warrants investigation.

Syria's government wants the investigation limited to the single Khan al-Assal incident and last week rejected the expanded investigation.

Britain and France had asked the U.N. to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Khan al-Assal and another village, Ataybah, in the vicinity of Damascus, in March, as well as in the central city of Homs on Dec. 23.

The inspection team is in Cyprus awaiting permission to enter Syria.

"The team of experts is ready to deploy as quickly as we have the Syrian government's consent," Ban said. "The mission is to be able to investigate all the allegations made by the member states. I have been urging the Syrian government to show flexibility."

The secretary-general said "the mission will proceed with its fact-finding activities," and additional information has been requested from the three governments.

U.N. diplomats say the chemical weapons experts are expected to visit camps for Syrian refugees, neighboring countries where Syrians have fled and possibly London and Paris to try to obtain information outside Syria. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because details have not been announced.

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Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations

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