Ban to send official request to Syria for U.N. probe of latest allegations

The U.N. secretary-general is issuing a request to the Syrian government to allow U.N. chemical weapons experts to examine the latest chemical weapon use allegations, the U.N. said on Thursday.

In New York, Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson addressed reporters about the alleged Wednesday chemical weapon attack. A U.N. team is currently spending up to 14 days in Syria to probe the alleged use of chemical weapons by the government at Khan-al-Asal and two other allegations reported by U.N. Member States.

"The secretary-general believes that the incidents reported yesterday need to be investigated without delay," Ban's spokesperson said. "A formal request is being sent by the United Nations to the government of Syria. He expects to receive a positive response without delay."

If the request is granted, Swedish scientist Åke Sellström and his team of U.N. experts would have access to the Damascus site where an incident allegedly occurred on Thursday morning. Ban also instructed Angela Kane, his high representative for disarmament affairs, to travel to Damascus to ensure the safety of the mission.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, urged the Syrian government and opposition forces to allow the team to examine the site as a matter of urgency. She said the allegations of chemical weapon use were exceptionally grave.

Since March 2011, as many as 100,000 people have been killed in Syria in the conflict between the Syrian government and opposition forces looking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.