U.N. inspectors have been granted permission to probe three sites in Syria where chemical weapons are suspected to have been used in the nearly 2 1/2-year-old
"The mission will travel to Syria as soon as possible to contemporaneously investigate three of the reported incidents, including Khan al-Assal," Ban's office said in a statement.
Robert Serry, U.N. special envoy for the Middle East, told the Security Council last week that his office has received 13 reports of alleged chemical weapons use in Syria. Chemical and biological agents are considered weapons of mass destruction and their use is banned by international law that defines them as crimes against humanity.
Khan al-Assal is a village on the outskirts of Aleppo. It was taken by rebel forces last week and was under government attack Wednesday in an effort to recapture it.
The government of embattled Syrian President
Assad's government asked the U.N. to visit the village and collect evidence from the site but has resisted Ban's request for wider access for the investigators to probe reports forwarded by the U.S., British and French governments alleging sarin gas use by government troops in spring around the battleground cities of Homs, Damascus and Aleppo.
The inspection visit, which took the U.N. authorities four months to arrange, will cover two other sites, Ban said, without naming them.
The investigation team will be charged with gathering proof of whether chemical weapons were used but not with determining which side used them if evidence of such attacks is found.