UNITED NATIONS, March 21 (Xinhua) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced an inquiry Thursday into the alleged use of chemical weapons in in Syria, a probe the Syrian government previously requested.
The secretary-general, speaking to reporters at his office here, said, "I have decided to conduct a United Nations investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria."
"I intend for this investigation to start as soon as practically possible," Ban said. "The investigation mission is to look into the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian government."
The Syrian government on Wednesday asked the U.N. to send an independent mission to investigate a reported chemical weapons attack by rebels in the country's northern province of Aleppo, Syria's U.N. representative Bashar Ja'afari told reporters here.
"I am here to inform you that the Syrian government has requested a few minutes ago the secretary-general of the United Nations to form a specialized, independent, neutral and technical mission to investigate the use by the terrorist groups operating in Syria of chemical weapons yesterday against civilians in the town Khan al-Asal in Aleppo," Ja'afari said.
He said his government did so in "a sign of good faith, good will, good intentions vis-a-vis the international community and vis-a-vis the international public opinion."
At least 25 people were killed and 130 others wounded Tuesday when armed men fired a rocket stuffed with chemical materials at the Khan al-Asal, Syrian state-media said, claiming opposition fighters were responsible. However, the rebels denied the accusations and instead accused the government.
Ja'afari said the rebel counterclaim was "to distract attention from the real fact on the ground, which is that the Syrian government, if in fact it has such weapons, would never use them against its own population."
Ban said of the probe: "There is much work to do and this will not happen overnight, it is obviously a difficult mission."
"I am, of course, aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons," he said. "In discharging its mandate of an investigation mission, full cooperation from all partners will be essential. I stress that this includes unfetterd access."
The United Nations would cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO), he said.