U.N. chemical weapons probe begins preparatory work in Syria

The newly-appointed leader of the U.N. investigation into allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria said last week that the preparations for the probe have begun.

Åke Sellström, the Swedish scientist in charge of the investigation, said the mission could begin within the next week or two. Sellström was appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to lead the U.N. fact finding mission after a formal request by the Syrian government.

"The mission will happen in a week's time or so," Sellström said. "It's a matter of days. There's a lot of preparatory work. Then we also have to rely on the security situation to allow us to do the mission."

The investigation will initially focus on an incident involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Kfar Dael region of Syria. When Ban announced the investigation, he noted there were other allegations made by the Syrian opposition of similar cases involving the use of chemical weapons.

After preparatory work on the mission is complete, the mission will consist of three or four days of inspections and two to three weeks of report writing and chemical analysis.

Martin Nesirky, a U.N. spokesperson, said the investigation has a very specific purpose.

"It is not the role of this mission to apportion responsibility or blame," Nesirky said. "It's not a criminal investigation. It's looking at whether chemical weapons were used, and not by whom."