Swedish scientist to head UN Syria chemical weapons probe

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has named Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom to head the UN investigation into allegations that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

‘He is an accomplished scientist with a solid background in disarmament and international security,’ UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

It was not immediately clear who else would be on his team.Russiasaid recently that Russian and Chinese experts should be part of the investigation, butMoscow’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia would ‘most likely not’ be represented.

Sellstrom was a chief inspector for UNSCOM, the UN inspection team that investigated and dismantled Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons programs in the 1990s.

Nesirky said the investigation would be technical and not a criminal investigation, looking at whether chemical weapons were used and not at who may have used them.

The United Nations said recently it would investigate Syrian allegations that rebels used chemical arms in an attack near the northern city of Aleppo, but Western countries sought a probe of all claims about the use of such banned arms.

France and Britain have written to Ban to draw his attention to an alleged attack near Damascus, as well as one in Homsin late December. The rebels blame Syria’s government for those incidents as well as the Aleppo attack.

US and European officials say there is no evidence of a chemical weapons attack. If one is confirmed, it would be the first use of such weapons in the two-year-old Syrian conflict, which the United Nations says has cost 70,000 lives.