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MOSCOW, September 9 (RIA Novosti) – Russia wants the United Nations to continue its investigation of all reports of chemical attacks in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday, including a contentious August 21 attack that Moscow and Washington have attributed to opposing forces in the protracted conflict.
“We’ve … agreed to seek the speedy return of UN inspectors [to Syria] to finish work concerning all cases of use of chemical weapons or reports of such attacks,” Lavrov said after a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Moscow.
The UN dispatched a team of experts to Syria at the end of last month following reports that hundreds of civilians were killed in a chemical attack outside Damascus on August 21.
However, the experts – who have yet to disclose their findings – were only tasked with confirming the attack took place, not naming the perpetrators.
“We have reasons to believe that this intention may be obstructed,” Lavrov said about the planned return of UN inspectors to Syria, announced last week by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “We will be resolutely pushing for the inspectors to finish their work.”
The United States and its Western allies have blamed the August 21 attack – the latest in a string of reported instances of chemical weapons use in Syria – on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, with Washington contemplating military action against his forces. Damascus has claimed the attack was the work of rebels hoping to incite foreign intervention, a stance increasingly backed by Moscow.
“There are…facts concerning the events of August 21 that, in our opinion, indicate the incident was directed,” Lavrov said. He did not elaborate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin explicitly said last week that he believed the chemical attack to be a provocation by the rebels.
Moscow earlier refuted US reports, partially based on classified data, that Assad’s forces were behind the attack, with a Kremlin official calling the evidence “unconvincing.”
(Updated with modified first paragraph to reflect differing positions on August 21 attack.)
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