Ban Ki-moon pleads for time on Syria investigation

August 29, 2013 - 6:36 AM
Austria UN

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivers a speech during an awarding ceremony where he received the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold for Services to the Province of Vienna at the city hall in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, August 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Hans Punz)

VIENNA (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that U.N. experts seeking to collect evidence from an apparent chemical attack in Syria that killed hundreds of people will report to him as soon as they leave the country Saturday.

The team is expected to complete its inspection on Friday and their conclusions will be shared with members of the Security Council, Ban said. He didn't specify when that might be but said the experts "should be allowed to conclude their investigation activities."

His comments were in line with his previous calls for restraint in the face of increasing signs of retaliatory military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad by the United States and its allies. Speaking to reporters, Ban said he repeated that message Wednesday in a conversation with President Barack Obama.

"I expressed my sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work," he said after receiving an award in Vienna's City Hall and meeting Austrian government leaders.

"Diplomacy should be given a chance and peace given a chance," he said. "It is important that all differences of opinion should be solved through peaceful means and through dialogue."

The findings of the experts will also be shared with all U.N. member countries, said Ban.

U.S. leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden, have charged that Assad's government was behind the Aug. 21 attack that Doctors Without Borders says killed at least 355 people. The White House says it's planning a possible military response while seeking support from international partners.