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Weapons inspector Sellström on how he did the job in Syria

Published onsdag 18 september 2013 kl 18.31
Swedish Weapons Inspector Åke Sellström hands over his report to the UN general Secretary Ban Ki-Moon. Photo: AP/Scanpix.

The Swede Åke Sellström headed the team of UN Weapons inspectors who went to Syria to verify the use of chemical gas in a village outside Damascus on the 21st of August. In an interview with Swedish Radio he talk about the difficulties of the job. "We had four days and five hours per day of truce," he says.

The regime demanded that Åke Sellström and his team specified 24 hours in advance where and when they were going to inspect. "After we had agreed with the government where we wanted to go and when, we sat the night before negotiating with the opposition, and tried to find the strongest leader of the opposition side, so that they could guarantee a truce," Sellström told Swedish Radio Studio 1.

"We could not work particularly freely on any side, but what we did was that we always over-defined what we wanted. We said we wanted 80 patients with symptoms of poisoning, and then we chose a smaller group out of them, so there was some freedom of choice. And the same with sites where grenades had exploded, we asked them to point out a large amount of them, so that we could choose from that," he said.

Some areas where they went, people from outside had not been for many months, and they were warmly welcomed. "It was really emotional to meet these expectations, and meet these faces. They expressed a joy that the surrounding world saw them, and that we, as representatives of the UN and the world, came to examine what had happened to them,".

Åke Sellström says he did not see any signs that the regime or any had covered their tracks, more than a slight delay in the beginning. But the first place they arrived 5 days after the attack. But there were clear evidence of the use of Sarin gas.

Sellström i very clear that he will not take sides or point to any guilty party. "It is anyway very hard to judge," he says, but adds that there are facts in their report, in terms of chemicals used, launch paths and so on that other experts could draw conclusions from.

This report is just a first report and first part of the inspection. Åke Sellström and his team will return to the area and examine other accusations of the use of chemical weapons.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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