Fighting rages in Syria, including in Damascus, seen here in July this year. Photo: Ugarit News/Scanpix

Bildt demands access for weapons inspectors

United Nations officials say that the Chief U.N. Chemical weapons inspector Åke Sellström from Sweden is in talks with the Syrian government about the alleged attack, news agency Reuters reports.

"Professor Sellstrom is in discussions with the Syrian government on all issues pertaining to the alleged use of chemical weapons, including this most recent reported incident," the U.N. press office said in a statement.

Meanwhile, following the reports of hundreds of civilian casualties caused by alleged chemical weapons attacks by government forces in Damascus, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called for an immediate reaction from the UN.

“This is happening almost exactly at the same time that UN chemical inspectors land in Damascus. We demand that they are given immediate access to the area. It is just 15 to 20 minutes from where they are,” he told news agency TT ahead of an EU meeting in Brussels.

A range of other countries have also called for an immediate investigation, and the UN Security Council is to discuss the issue later tonight.

Opposition activists have told international news agencies that al-Assad forces have used chemical weapons, killing up to 600 people, including children, early on Wednesday morning.

The team is headed by Swedish professor Åke Sellström. He told news agency TT from Damascus he has seen television images of the attacks although the images were not conclusive.

“But such a high number of dead and injured does sound suspicious. It sounds like something that should be looked at,” he said, adding that UN member states need to instruct the UN secretariat to send in the inspectors.

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