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UN says deal reached with Syria on chemical weapons probe

The UN and the Syrian foreign ministry say they have agreed on the "way forward" on an inquiry tasked with verifying alleged use of chemical weapons. Two UN envoys were in Damascus this week meeting with officials.

"The discussions were thorough and productive and led to an agreement on the way forward," said a statement from the UN, without giving any further detail. Syria's state news agency SANA said the statement had been issued jointly with the foreign ministry.

Ake Sellstrom, the chief inspector for the UN investigating team, and Angela Kane, the UN high representative for disarmament, visited Syria on Wednesday and Thursday. Their main task was to negotiate the terms of a possible investigation into alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The statement issued by the UN on Saturday did not give any detail as to when an inquiry might begin or when inspectors would be allowed into Syria.

The UN wants access to 13 locations in Syria where chemical weapons were purpotedly used in the conflict, which has gone on for 28 months.

The Syrian government has reportedly asked the UN to investigate its claim that opposition rebels used chemical weapons on March 19, in the northern town of Khan al-Assal. Both sides accuse each other of using chemical agents in the incident.

Russia, Syria's main ally, says its own investigation found opposition rebels used sarin gas in Khan al-Assal, but Britain, France and the United States have expressed skepticism that rebels used chemcal weapons. The three Western allies say they have evidence that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used sarin.

Estimates by the UN suggest that more than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

jr/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)