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UN chemical expert team to investigate seven sites

The United Nations says its inspectors in Syria will investigate a total of seven sites where chemical weapons were allegedly used. The UN has also said the team would finish its work on the ground on Monday.

The UN office in Damascus said in a statement on Friday that its team would investigate a total of seven sites and write up a report "it hopes will be ready by late October."

The UN said the team, which is currently in Syria, would complete their evidence-gathering activities in Syria by Monday.

The probe was launched in response to a chemical weapons attack in Ghouta outside of Damascus on August 21. The United States and its Western allies have blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the attack, which they say killed more than 1,400 people.

The team's first report, released on September 16, said there was evidence that the nerve agent sarin had been used in the attack. The team, however, was not tasked to determine who was responsible for its use.

Other alleged attack sites to be investigated include a March 19 incident in Khan al-Assal, the Sheikh Maqsud neighborhood in Aleppo city, allegedly the site of an April attack, and Saraqeb in northwestern Idlib province.

The newest sites added to the list include Bahhariyeh and Jobar, both eastern districts of Damascus, where incidents allegedly took place on August 22 and 24. The seventh incident, allegedly occuring on August 25, is Ashrafiyeh Sahnaya which is southwest of the capital.

The UN expert team is separate from a team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is tasked with implementing a US-Russia brokered deal under which the Syrian government has agreed to turn over its chemical weapons for destruction.

On Friday, the OPCW said it would "as soon as possible and in any case not later than October 1 initiate inspections in the Syrian Arab Republic."

hc/pfd (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)