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Russia's envoy objects U.S. blame on blocking UN team into Syria


08:19, July 12, 2013

UNITED NATIONS, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Russia's ambassador to the United Nations objected on Thursday to a U.S. assertion Moscow was against a U.N. investigation team to follow up on allegations that chemical weapons have been used during the civil war in Syria.

"The notion Russia is blocking anything is completely misleading," Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters outside the UN Security Council chamber. "Because from the outset (when) the Syrian government invited the United Nations to investigate the use of chemical weapons on March 19, we have been doing everything we could for that investigation to happen."

When asked about an 80-page report on chemical weapons in Syria that Russia submitted to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki said on Wednesday, "We'll, of course, need time to review it."

"One other thing to note," the spokesperson added, according to a State Department transcript from which Churkin quoted to reporters. "Russia is currently blocking an effort by the Security Council to allow UN access into Syria to investigate any all credible allegations."

The investigation team was established by Ban and headed by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom who has been kept out of Syria by Damascus but working on modalities for his team to operate there.

Syria alleged opposition forces used chemical weapons on March 19 in a district of Aleppo.

That prompted Britain, France and the United States to ask for investigation of allegations that Syrian government forces used chemical weapons in Homs in December 2012.

But, earlier this week, Syria invited Sellstrom and UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane to Damascus to discuss modalities for the UN team. The invitation was accepted.

"We have been doing everything we could in order to make sure that investigation would happen," Churkin said. "Moreover, we did play a role in a recent understanding about a visit to Damascus that was successful. Our role in that .. indicates that we are in favor of a proper investigation."

He did not elaborate on just what was the role Moscow played.

Disputing the U.S. State Department allegation that Russia was blocking the Security Council from acting on the investigation, Churkin pointed out, "It is not for the Security Council to allow access. It's for the Syrian government to agree on that with the ( UN) Secretariat and this is exactly what they've been trying to achieve, having invited the UN chemical weapons inspectors to Syria way back in March."

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