OPCW starts emergency talks on Douma attacks

UK Ministers

The United States, Britain, and France launched air strikes against Syrian government facilities on April 14 in response.

Russian Federation immediately denied the British allegations and said the OPCW visit to Douma had been delayed because of the Western airstrikes against the Syrian regime early Saturday morning.

It was not known who carried out the attack, with Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb saying: "There are no USA or coalition operations in that area".

At least 40 people were killed in the Douma attack.

He said the team of experts had arrived in Damascus at 19:00 local time on Saturday and had met with the Syrian side. The Russian military said they'd be allowed in Wednesday.

Igor Kirillov, head of Russia's radiological, biological and chemical protection unit, told reporters the roads still had to be de-mined and cleared and would be tested by United Nations security services on Tuesday. "And on Wednesday is when we plan the arrival of the OPCW experts", he told a press conference in the Russian embassy in The Hague, explaining the roads were still being cleared of mines.

Its team on the ground also faced the risk of arriving too late to a site where much of the evidence may have always been removed or tampered with.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mokdad said several coordination meetings were held with the OPCW team but he did not provide any further details as their schedule.

The Syrian regime also said it was "fully ready" to cooperate with the OPCW investigation.

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The targeted sites were largely empty and were all said to be facilities for chemical weapons storage or production.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is claiming the Russians blocked the OPCW, saying that Russia and Syria are "not cooperating".

Despite polls showing scant support for the move, May said it had been her "responsibility as prime minister to make these decisions", while Macron also defended his move as part of his constitutional powers.

OPCW officials have carried out similar chemical checks in Syria. For over a week now, Syrian government flags have flown over Douma, the biggest town in the agricultural Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus, since rebels there surrendered after five years of siege.

The agency, set up to ensure the destruction of chemical armaments, is due to assess the scene and take samples from alleged attack victims to determine the cause and potentially uncover the perpetrators.

The suspected attack in Douma, outside Damascus, in which the World Health Organization has said 43 people who died suffered "symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals", occurred on April 7.

The British envoy to the OPCW, Peter Wilson, put the Douma attack in a wider context of chemical weapons use in Syria during the war.

Russian ambassador Shulgin repeated the accusations telling reporters in The Hague that Douma residents had not been able to produce "a single body".

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