UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he intends to conduct a "thorough, impartial and prompt investigation" into the latest alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, an issue his top disarmament official will raise in Damascus shortly.
A U.N. statement said U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane was due to arrive in the Syrian capital on Saturday to push for access to the reported attack site for U.N. inspectors, who were already in Syria to investigate previous chemical attack claims.
"It is (Ban's) intention to conduct a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation on the reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons during these attacks," U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey said in the statement.
"The secretary-general urges the Syrian authorities to respond positively and promptly to his request without delay, taking into account in particular that the Syrian Government has publicly expressed its own concerns regarding these events," he said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is under increasing pressure from Western and Gulf Arab countries and Assad's ally Russia to allow access to the rebel-held site of Wednesday's pre-dawn attack. The opposition Syrian National Coalition has also urged U.N. access.
Assad's opponents braved the front lines around Damascus on Friday to smuggle tissue samples to U.N. inspectors from victims of Wednesday's reported mass poisoning, which if confirmed would be the world's deadliest chemical attack in decades.
So far Assad's government has not said whether it will allow chief U.N. chemical investigator Ake Sellstrom's team to visit the site in the suburbs east of Damascus. Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari has not responded to a Reuters query about possible access for Sellstrom's team.
The U.N. experts have been in Syria since Sunday to investigate three previous alleged chemical attacks in the country dating from months ago.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Vicki Allen and Eric Beech)
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