DAMASCUS, Syria — The Syrian government on Sunday gave the green light for United Nations inspectors to carry out an immediate probe into allegations of chemical weapons use near the capital last week, the country's foreign ministry said.
"An agreement was concluded today (Sunday) in Damascus between the Syrian government and the United Nations during the visit of the UN high representative for disarmament, Angela Kane, to allow the UN team lead by professor Aake Sellstroem to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Damascus province," a ministry statement said.
The agreement "is effective immediately," it added. The UN said its inspectors would begin their review on Monday in Ghouta, Syria, the scene of last week's attack.
An estimated 1,300 people died on Wednesday before dawn in what appears to have been the world's worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein's forces gassed thousands of Iraqi Kurdish villagers in 1988.
Syria has denied that it was to blame for the attack but rebels and many Western officials believe the poisoning was caused by a chemical agent used in a rocket attack carried out by government forces.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office said in a statement that Syria had promised to observe a ceasefire at the site in the suburbs of Damascus while the team begins "on-site fact-finding activities.”
The chemical attack took place just three days after the UN team arrived in Syria to investigate other smaller allegations of poison gas use. Under their agreement, the inspector team's movements must be agreed with the Syrian authorities.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem met Kane on Sunday morning, it said.
Moualem "stressed Syria's readiness to cooperate with a team of investigators to uncover false allegations by terrorist groups that Syrian troops used chemical weapons in (Damascus)."
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