Russia: Chemical inspectors allowed access to Syria attack site


Syrian and Russian authorities prevented independent investigators from going to the scene of a suspected chemical attack, the head of the chemical watchdog group said Monday, blocking global efforts to establish what happened and who was to blame.

Meanwhile, the French Foreign Ministry, in a statement, accused the Syrian government and Russian Federation of deliberately barring the OPCW from entering Douma in the past few days so that the evidence of the suspected gas attack disappeared without a trace.

The team has been in the country since Saturday but has been denied access to the site in the town of Douma, the BBC reports.

During an emergency meeting on Monday at the OPCW's headquarters in The Hague, Western diplomats accused the Syrian government and its Russian ally of blocking the team, which arrived in Damascus on Saturday. It also reported a separate airstrike on the Dumayr air base near Damascus. The Associated Press spoke to survivors and witnesses who described being hit by gas, fainting, and discovering their relatives had died, with foam bubbling around their mouths.

British prime minister Theresa May told restive lawmakers on Monday that military airstrikes on Syria were right both legally and morally, and she accused Syria and its ally Russian Federation of attempting to cover up evidence of a deadly chemical weapons attack.

The whole media campaign promoting the idea of the OPCW investigation being "blocked" might be aimed at actually discrediting the potential results of the probe, which could prove to be inconsistent with the narrative promoted by the United States and its allies, security analyst and former UK Army officer Charles Shoebridge said, in a Twitter post.

U.S. officials have raised concerns that Russian Federation, the Syrian government's ally, might have tampered with the site.

The UK participated in the strikes in response to an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian regime on the rebel-held area of Douma on 7 April.

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The US and France say they have evidence that poison gas was used in the April 7 attack in Douma, killing at least 40 people, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad's military was behind it.

In the meantime, the Russian military have found a laboratory operated by militants in central Douma, which the military says was used to produce chemical weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Western strikes had violated global law and set back the peace process, the Kremlin said.

The Pentagon said there was no U.S. military activity in that area "at this time".

The kingdom has supported Sunni rebel groups fighting Assad's forces, which are backed by Shiite-majority Iran.

Earlier this month, four Iranian military personnel were killed in an airstrike on Syria's T4 air base, also in Homs. Israel did not confirm or deny mounting the raid.

"At the moment, Russian Federation and Syria continue to deny access to [OPCW] investigators who arrived in Syria on April 14".