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UN inspectors to leave Syria by Saturday: Ban

world Updated: Aug 29, 2013 17:23 IST

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A UN team of inspectors investigating an apparent poison gas attack in Syria will leave the country by Saturday morning, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday in Vienna.

"They will continue investigation activities until tomorrow Friday and they will come out of Syria by Saturday morning and will report to me as soon as they come out," Ban told journalists.

He added he would share the results "and our analysis of samples and evidence" with members of the UN Security Council and all UN countries.

Ban added he had spoken on Wednesday to US President Barack Obama, as the United States appears to be moving closer to a military strike.

"I expressed my sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states," the UN chief said.

"We discussed how the UN and the world can work together particularly with the United States, (and) how we can expedite the process of investigation," he added.

Ban has repeatedly spoken out against military action in Syria, which the US, Britain and France have been pushing for, against opposition from fellow UN Security Council members Russia and China.

On Wednesday, Obama said he had not yet made the decision to launch a military strike, although he has warned in the past that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a US "red line".

"Diplomacy should be given a chance. Peace (should) be given a chance," Ban said.

"It is important that all differences of opinion should be resolved by peaceful means and through dialogue," he said.

But he added: "The use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any reason, under any circumstances, is a crime against humanity and that must be held accountable for."

A team of UN inspectors has been investigating this week an alleged poison gas attack near Damascus on August 21, that the Syrian opposition says may have killed hundreds.

The government of Bashar al-Assad and the opposition have accused each other over the attack, which, if confirmed, would be the deadliest use of such weapons since Saddam Hussein gassed Iraqi Kurds in 1988.

Ban was in Vienna on Thursday to receive a medal from services to the city where he was long posted as ambassador to South Korea.