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Moscow welcomes U.N. probe in Syria

Aug. 16, 2013 at 1:19 PM

MOSCOW, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The agreement reached for weapons inspections by the United Nations and Syrian government is better late than never, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced both sides agreed to let a U.N. mission into the country to probe claims of chemical weapons use. The departure of a team lead by former Iraqi weapons inspector Ake Sellstrom is "imminent."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Friday the Kremlin welcomed the announcement.

"Moscow welcomes the principal agreements reached to start the work of the group of international inspectors in Syria that, although late, open the way for a thorough and unbiased investigation of the situation around the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria," he was quoted by state news agency RIA Novosti as saying.

The departure follows lengthy discussions over the formalities of the visit. The Syrian government said the inspection team would be in the country for up to 14 days.

The team would be allowed to visit the Khan al-Assal district in Aleppo, where the Russian government in March said rebel forces used sarin nerve gas. The British government said Syrian President Bashar Assad sanctioned the use of the chemical nerve agent as well.

The Russian government said efforts to resolve the Syria crisis are skewed in favor of rebel forces. It counts Assad's regime as a main arms customer.

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