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U.N. chemical weapons team will leave soon for Syria

By CNN Staff
August 16, 2013 -- Updated 0103 GMT (0903 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • U.N. inspectors will go to Syria to investigate alleged chemical weapons use
  • The Syrian government has agreed to the terms of visit
  • The U.S. believes Syrian forces crossed a "red line" by using chemical weapons
  • The Syrian government says rebels have used them

(CNN) -- A United Nations team is poised to fly to Syria to investigate allegations that chemical weapons have been used during the bloody civil war, the secretary-general's office said Wednesday.

The Syrian government has accepted "modalities essential for cooperation to ensure the proper, safe and efficient conduct of the mission," a spokesman said in a statement.

Syria has been embroiled in a war for more than two years, during which more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced or become refugees in other countries, according to the United Nations.

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Amid the fighting, there have been numerous allegations that chemical weapons have been used.

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In June, the White House said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces had crossed a "red line" by using chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin gas, against rebel forces. This prompted the U.S. government to begin providing military support to opposition fighters, despite its earlier reluctance to do so.

Syria's government, meanwhile, has claimed rebel fighters have used chemical weapons as well.

That includes a March incident in Khan al-Asal in the northern province of Aleppo, according to state media. Opposition officials have said rebels don't have access to chemical weapons or the missiles needed to use them in an attack, while other rebel leaders said Syrian troops fired "chemical rockets" at civilians and opposition forces.

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Khan al-Asal will be one of the three incidents that U.N. inspectors will look into, a U.N. spokesperson said in late July.

The United Nations said the "imminent" trip can serve as a deterrent to use of such weapons.

"The overwhelming support of the international community for this investigation makes clear that the use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances would constitute an outrageous crime," it said.

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CNN's Igor Krotov contributed to this report.

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