U.N. and Syria say chemical arms talks were 'productive'

BEIRUT Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:18pm BST

Angela Kane (R), head of the U.N. Office of Disarmament Affairs, chats with U.N. staff as she arrives in Damascus July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

Angela Kane (R), head of the U.N. Office of Disarmament Affairs, chats with U.N. staff as she arrives in Damascus July 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United Nations and Syria said on Saturday that negotiations between Damascus and the U.N. chemical weapons investigator were "productive", but did not say if his team would be allowed to probe allegations that such weapons had been used in the country's civil war.

Ake Sellstrom's full team has not been allowed into Syria due to diplomatic wrangling over access. His mission this week was to prepare the ground for an investigation.

Sellstrom met Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, and a joint U.N.-Syrian statement said "discussions were thorough and productive and led to an agreement on the way forward." It did not say if the agreement included access for Sellstrom's team.

Damascus has so far refused to let U.N. investigators go anywhere except Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province, where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and its ally Russia say rebels used chemical weapons in March.

The United States said last month it had proof that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against fighters trying to overthrow Assad.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has insisted that his team be permitted to visit at least one other location, the city of Homs, site of an alleged chemical attack by government forces in December 2012.

Both sides deny using chemical weapons in a war which the U.N. says has killed 100,000 people.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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