OPCW experts gather samples on chemical attack site in Syria again

2018 Ariel Schalit      
                                               Amos Yadlin

"They will be split and dispatched for analysis by the OPCW designated labs", the body said. Britain vehemently denied the Russian accusation.

Chemical weapons inspectors collected on Wednesday more samples from the Syrian town of Douma, three weeks after a regime chemical attack in the area that left at least 40 people dead. An earlier visit took place on Saturday after the inspectors were delayed for days from getting to the town, just east of Damascus, over security reasons.

Samples taken from two sites will be returned to the OPCW's laboratory in the Netherlands and then sent on to affiliated laboratories for examination, the OPCW said in a statement. The OPCW team is mandated to establish whether chemical weapons were used, but not to apportion blame.

The Syrian air defense was able to successfully shot down 46 cruise missiles that the US, France and the United Kingdom fired at it on April 14, a senior Russian military commander says, rejecting American claims that all of the missiles hit their targets.

It has advised the Russian delegation that "these persons should be first interviewed" by the inspectors who are now in Damascus. He says some of the images from the set of the movie were probably found by security forces on his phone.

Russian Embassy spokesman Mikhail Sobolev said Wednesday that about 15 Syrians will attend a meeting at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Thursday to brief member states.

The suspected attack and retaliation increased tension between the West and Russian Federation.

The Russian Defense Ministry's display of fragments of missiles, which were fired at Syrian targets by the Western allies on April 14, would be "a source of great concern to the American, British and French side", Shoebridge said. His statement did not specify the weapons, but the remarks follow Russian media reports that Moscow is considering selling its S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who was traveling in China, said later that a final decision on the S-300s had yet to be reached, but the intent to shore up Syria's porous air defenses was clear.

"Russian specialists will continue training Syrian military personnel, as well as assist in the development of new air defense systems, the deliveries of which will be carried out in the near future", Rudskoy told the news agency.

"Even from a successful strike you will find some fragments from the weapons used, but usually not in the kind of sizes that we're talking about here", Shoebridge said.

Israel has recently warned Iran against any moves to augment its military presence in Syria, where Iranian military advisers and militias have long provided critical support to Assad in his seven-year civil war against Sunni rebels. Syria intercepted many with its more primitive systems.

An estimated 450,000 people have been killed in fighting in Syria since Assad's government cracked down on demonstrations calling for his ouster in 2011.

"We want to beef up our capacities to look in much more details to these requests", he said.

European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini urged Moscow and Tehran, Assad's key supporters, to help bring him to the negotiating table, saying they had a duty to help wind down the war, now in its eighth year.

Associated Press writers Mike Corder in The Hague, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed.

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