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Joint mission urged to probe chlorine gas use in Syria

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is discussing with the Syrian government to form a fact finding mission to look into the allegations about the use of chlorine gas in the Syrian battlefield, the special coordinator of the OPCW-UN joint mission said on Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Syrian government and militant groups traded accusations regarding an alleged chlorine gas attack on the rebel-held area of Kafr Zaita in the central province of Hama. Two people were killed and 100 others suffered suffocation in that incident.

The opposition activists accused the Syrian government troops of using the poisonous chlorine gas on many rebel-held areas, a claim that was totally dismissed by the government.

French President Francois Hollande also said recently that Syrian government forces used chlorine gas in a series of attacks in Syria, though he acknowledged that he had no clear proof that chlorine weapons were used.

The UN Security Council called for an investigation into the allegations last Wednesday, as the council's members expressed " grave concern" over such claims.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad denied the accusations by the rebels and their Western backers as "absolutely baseless."

Such accusations have come at a time when the Syrian government is delivering on its pledges to remove its chemical weapons, and the country is bracing for presidential elections slated for June 3.

Kaag said on Sunday there are only about 7.5 or 8 percent of Syria's chemical weapons materials that need to be destroyed, following 18 successful operations that have ridden the country of 92 percent of its chemical arsenal.

Meanwhile, Kaag stressed commitment to the timely removal of the remaining chemical materials by the June 30 deadline, to make sure that none of the chemical material falls in the wrong hands.

[Source: Xinhua, Damascus, 27Apr14]

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