Syria accused the U.N. Tuesday of attempting to broaden a probe into an alleged chemical attack in the village of Khan Al-Assal in Aleppo province to the rest of the country, adding that the government will not approve the entry of U.N. experts, official Syrian news agency SANA stated.
A U.N. inspection team is stationed in Cyprus and is ready to deploy to nearby Syria to start the investigation.
"I can announce today that an advance team is now in Cyprus for the final stage" before the mission heads to Syria, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in The Hague Monday, AFP news agency reported. "We are ready."
All reports of chemical attacks "should be examined without delay, without conditions and without exceptions," Ban had said, according to the Associated Press news agency. "The longer we wait, the harder this essential mission will be."
The U.N. says over 70,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war since it began as an uprising against Assad's regime two years ago.
Syria requested the U.N. last month to investigate an alleged chemical weapons attack Mar. 19 on Khan Al-Assal. The Syrian government and rebel forces blame each other for the incident.
A Syrian Foreign Ministry source said that Syria had appealed to Ban “to send a fair, unbiased technical mission to Khan Al-Assal village in Aleppo to investigate into a rocket attack by the armed terrorist groups which included chemical, poisonous materials,” SANA news agency reported.
However, Syria “regrets” that Ban has yielded to external pressures “to divert the consultations in this regard from their real context,” an unnamed source added.
“Syria couldn't accept such "maneuvers" by the U.N., taking into consideration the real negative role, which it played in Iraq that paved the way for the U.S. invasion,” SANA stated citing the source.
The source added that Syria is willing to cooperate with a U.N. observer mission limited to Khan Al-Assal.
Earlier, Britain and France urged the U.N. chief to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Khan Al-Assal and the village of Ataybah, near Damascus, both pertaining to the Mar. 19 incident, as well as an incident in Homs, Dec. 23.
Syria is believed to own one of the largest undeclared stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the world, including the sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide, the U.S. officials said, as reported by the New York Times.
According to an intelligence report to the U.S. Congress covering January to December 2011, Syria has had a chemical weapons (CW) program “for many years and already has a stockpile of CW agents, which can be delivered by aerial bombs, ballistic missiles, and artillery rockets.”
Meanwhile, Syrian state media claimed at least 15 people were killed and more than 50 wounded after a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle in Damascus.
This is just the latest in a series of such bombings in the capital in recent months, as the rebels push closer to Assad’s seat of power.