Shots as UN visits suspected chemical site

Shayrat air base was targeted last year in a U.S. cruise missile attack in response to a chemical attack that killed at least

Shots as UN visits suspected chemical site

Despite being told by Syria on Wednesday (April 18) that they would be allowed into Douma, an advance United Nations security team came under fire, preventing the visit. At another, the team "came under small-arms fire and an explosive was detonated", he said.

The team visiting Douma retreated to their base in Damascus after unidentified gunmen shot at them, according to Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the worldwide chemical weapons watchdog. The UK envoy to the OPCW, Peter Wilson, on Monday accused Syria and Russian Federation of blocking the team's access to the site, which Russian Federation denied.

Alexander Rodionov of the Russian military's chemical weapons protection unit said its experts found chlorine and components for producing mustard gas at a rebel laboratory in Douma.

The government insisted the incident in Douma on 7 April was fabricated. "Russian Federation should press the Americans as much as she can - we should punch them in the fact, and it would be the right thing to do".

The United States and its allies blame the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Russian Federation and Syria insist no chemical attack took place.

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The US was just as convinced of its intelligence in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, while the OPCW and other global organizations disagreed, AP's chief diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee pointed out. OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said Syrian and Russian officials cited "pending security issues" in keeping its inspectors from reaching Douma.

A Pentagon official on Thursday said the Syrian government still has limited ability to launch a future chemical weapons attack, even after the USA and its allies struck three of the country's chemical facilities. Britain denies the allegation. The statement appeared to be aimed at bolstering contentions that Syrian rebels have used chemical weapons.

Nerve agents, however, can often be detected for years. The OPCW inspectors have not yet been able to visit the site, and Uzumcu did not say when they would deploy. "There is still a lot of volatility in the area", United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding that the United Nations security team needed to make at least another visit before the fact-finding mission could go ahead.

"I hope hot heads will cool down and that will be it", he told reporters.

Global investigators on Tuesday entered a Syrian town hit by an alleged chemical attack, after days of delay and warnings by Western powers that crucial evidence had likely been removed.

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Sites near Damascus and Homs were hit on Saturday by the United States, France and UK in response to an alleged chemical attack on Douma on 7th April. Information on the attack site is murky, and different sides are giving conflicting details and accusing one another of cooking up conspiracy theories.

The U.N. -mandated Independent International Commission on Syria has documented more than 30 chemical attacks in Syria between 2013 and the end of 2017 - at least 25 of them carried out by the Syrian military, the commission says.

"As it is, even with this latest bombing, the West does not have a seat at the table", he said.

Russian Federation and Syria deny that toxic gas was used in Douma.

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