Syria says chemical weapons experts may visit Douma on Wednesday

Defiant crowds gathered in Damascus to wave Syrian flags and dance

Syria's United Nations ambassador Bashar Jaafari told the Security Council on Tuesday that the OPCW experts would begin their investigation once they received the all-clear from the United Nations team.

The OPCW inspectors are in Syria to investigate an April 7 incident in which Western countries and rescue workers say scores of civilians were gassed to death by government forces, which Damascus denies.

"If a nerve agent was used, signs of that might be found in samples taken on the day of the attack, and maybe days afterwards".

The Syrian government and Russian Federation have denied using chemical weapons and accused rebels, with Western backing, of using such weapons or faking such an attack.

According to the United Nations report, a security team travelled to two sites on Tuesday escorted by Russian military police.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday that the Syrian government was responsible for delays in inspectors reaching sites of a suspected chemical weapons attack, a strategy they had used in the past.

U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Ward on Monday said at an OPCW meeting in The Hague that Russian Federation may have tampered with the evidence. But, the reported "security issue" is expected to further delay the inspection.

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari on Tuesday told a meeting of the UN Security Council that the team of experts would begin work on Wednesday once they receive the all-clear from their security detail.

After the recapture of eastern Ghouta, Assad still has several smaller pockets of ground to recover from rebels, as well as two major areas they hold in the northwest and southwest.

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Days before the US, together with the United Kingdom and France, bombarded targets in Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack, President Trump said the USA would get out of Syria "very soon".

Video footage and witness testimony suggested that gas seeped down into the basements, suffocating the victims.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "will still continue to bomb his people, to gas his people". Moscow, meanwhile, has said that the devastation in Douma was faked by foreign intelligence agencies looking for a rationale to attack Syria. The Russian military said a Syrian security employee was slightly wounded in the crossfire Tuesday, but no Russian servicemen were at the site of the attack.

Western ambassadors to the organisation accused the Syrian regime of obstructing the mission.

"It is highly likely that evidence and essential elements disappear from the site, which is completely controlled by the Russian and Syrian armies", the French foreign ministry said.

On Tuesday, Russian state media reported that Russian military had discovered a chemical laboratory and warehouse in Douma that they claimed belonged to "militants".

But the assessment also indicated that a large quantity of the chemical weapons was stored elsewhere and that Syria's chemical weapons programme, while crude, "is about as good as it needs to be for Assad's purposes", another official said.

Chemical experts have told Sky News that a successful investigation by the OPCW is made harder as more time passes.

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