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U.N. will investigate chemical weapons

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations will investigate the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria, which would amount to a crime against humanity, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Thursday.

The investigation could be broader than the Syrian government’s request for an independent probe of a purported chemical weapons attack on Tuesday. Ban said he was aware of other, similar allegations and hoped the probe would help secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. Syria is widely believed to have a large stockpile of chemical weapons. The government has not confirmed it, saying only that it would never use chemical weapons against its own people, but it alleged the rebels used chemical weapons this week. The rebels blamed the regime for the alleged attack.

“My announcement should serve as an unequivocal reminder that the use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity,” the secretary-general said. “The international community needs full assurance that chemical weapons stockpiles are verifiably safeguarded.”

Western nations fear President Bashar Assad would use chemical weapons if he sees the two-year war turning against his government. But they are equally concerned that rebel forces, including some linked to al-Qaida, could get their hands on unguarded chemical weapons or the materials to make them.

Ban said investigators would look into Syria’s allegation that rebels carried out a chemical weapons attack on Khan al-Assal village in northern Aleppo province.

The rebels denied the attack and blamed regime forces. The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group, also demanded an international investigation.

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