Footage of Douma Attack Staged, so-Called Evidence is 'Fake' - Moscow

UK Ministers

Experts from the world's global chemical arms watchdog are continuing their mission to probe an alleged gas attack in Douma despite Western air strikes in Syria, the body said Saturday. Moscow immediately denied the charge and blamed delays on retaliatory US-led missile strikes on Syria at the weekend.

In the Syrian capital, thousands of people gathered on the main Umayyad square to express their support for President Bashar al-Assad in the aftermath of the missile strikes.

Referring to economic sanctions, it said that "the European Union will continue to consider further restrictive measures against Syria as long as the repression continues". Relief organisations say dozens of men, women and children were killed.

The four nations confronted each other intense emergency talks at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague as inspectors prepare for a hard and unsafe mission.

Uzumcu told emergency talks of the organization in The Hague that Russian and Syrian officials have informed the OPCW team that there were "still pending security issues to be worked out before any deployment could take place".

Jaish al-Islam has said it only agreed to the deal because of the Syrian government's purported use of toxic chemicals on Douma, which medics said killed more than 40 people.

The OPCW chief, Ahmet Uzumcu, told the meeting his inspectors had failed to gain access to the site.

"We are concerned they may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW fact-finding mission to conduct an effective investigation", he added in his speech, which was shared with news agencies.

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Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov suggested that the inspectors' visit to the site had been delayed as a result of the Western air strikes.

"Unfettered access is essential", the British delegation said in a statement.

According to Petter Lycke, Sweden's representative at the OPCW executive council, Syria and Russian Federation told the inspectors that their safety could not be guaranteed...

The limited scope of the strikes and the fact that Damascus had time to remove key assets thanks to prior warning given by the West to Syria regime ally Russian Federation, also drew sceptical comments from analysts.

The United States, Britain, and France launched air strikes against Syrian government facilities on April 14 in response.

Worldwide chemical weapons inspectors had not been able to visit Douma by Monday evening, with Britain saying Syria and Russian Federation had been unable to guarantee their safety, though Russian Federation blamed the delay on Saturday's Western airstrikes. "Therefore, allegations of this towards Russian Federation are groundless", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told a meeting of the OPCW executive council that inspectors had not been allowed to visit the town outside Damascus, the United Kingdom delegation said.

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