UN needs Assad approval to visit claimed chemical attack site: Russia
Russia said Thursday that a UN weapons inspection team in Syria must get the government's approval to visit the site of an alleged chemical attack near Damascus that the opposition says killed hundreds.
The Russian foreign ministry's official spokesman said the site of Wednesday's incident was controlled by rebels and that security concerns must also be addressed before any UN inspections are made.
"As far as we are aware, this region is under the control of the rebels," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters.
"We proceed from the premise that the mission must agree on this visit with the Syrian side, as the receiving party," he said.
"It is no accident that (UN Deputy Secretary General Jan) Eliasson said that for a such visit to take place, the least that must happen first is for the military activities to stop."
Eliasson briefed UN Security Council members Wednesday on the incident, in which the Syrian opposition said more than 1,300 people were killed in bomb attacks with a chemical agent carried out by President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
Council members then announced that they were seeking "clarity" about the situation but failed to agree on a formal statement condemning the attack.
A diplomat in New York said Russia and China -- two permanent UN Security Council members that have backed Assad throughout the conflict -- blocked a statement condemning the incident.
The Russian foreign ministry called accusations that the Syrian regime had orchestrated the alleged chemical attack a "premeditated provocation".
Moscow said that it believed that a chemical substance whose makeup it did not know had been launched from a position controlled by the rebels.
The comment implied that Russia was intially blaming Assad's foes for the attack.
The Syrian army has denied any responsibility for the incident.
The UN inspections team landed in Syria on Wednesday and has permission to visit three sites where chemical weapons were allegedly used in recent months.
That list was formally approved by the UN Security Council members and Assad's government.
© 2013 AFP