U.N. chemical weapons team to leave Syria by Saturday morning - Ban

VIENNA Thu Aug 29, 2013 2:00pm BST

1 of 2. U.N. vehicles carrying a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts leave the hotel where they are staying at in Damascus August 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

VIENNA (Reuters) - United Nations inspectors, in Syria to determine whether forces have used chemical weapons in the civil war, will continue their investigations until Friday and plan to leave by Saturday morning, the U.N. chief said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Vienna, said the team - which arrived in Syria on August 18 - would report to him as soon as they "come out of" the country and that he had therefore cut short a trip to Austria. He had been due to address an economic forum in the village of Alpbach on Saturday.

Ban said he had spoken to U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday about the situation in Syria, discussing how "we can expedite the process of investigation.

"I have also expressed my sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states," Ban told reporters.

"I told him that we will ... share the information and our analysis of samples and evidence with members of the Security Council and United Nations members in general."

U.N. chemical weapons experts began a third day of investigations into an apparent poison gas attack last week which killed hundreds of civilians, visiting rebel-held territory outside Damascus.

"They (the inspection team) will continue investigation activities until tomorrow, Friday, and will come out of Syria by Saturday morning and will report to me," Ban said.

U.S. President Barack Obama made the case on Wednesday for a limited military strike against Syria in response to the chemical attack. Ban said anyone using poison gas must be held accountable but a peaceful solution was best.

"Use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any reason, under any circumstances is a crime against humanity and that must be held accountable ...," Ban said. "(At the same time) it is important that all the differences of opinions should be resolved by peaceful means, through dialogue."

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl and Eric Auchard; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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