U.N. Chemical Investigators Ready to Go to Syria

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -

U.N. experts are ready to move into Syria to investigate reported chemical weapons attacks but President Bashar Assad’s government still has not approved their entry, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday.

Ban told reporters that a team is already waiting on Cyprus while the U.N. negotiates “technical and legal” issues with Damascus.

All reports of chemical attacks “should be examined without delay, without conditions and without exceptions,” Ban said. “The longer we wait, the harder this essential mission will be.”

His comments appeared aimed at increasing the pressure on Assad’s regime and ensuring that U.N. inspectors are given access to all sites of reported chemical weapons attacks in the country’s bloody civil war and not just those that Assad’s regime wants them to see.

Ban said it is “a matter of principle” to investigate all allegations and not just a case in which Syria alleges that the rebels used poison gas.

Syria is widely believed to have a large stockpile of chemical weapons, but it is one of only eight countries in the world that have not signed up to the chemical weapons convention.