- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2013

Investigators with the United Nations have agreed to test soil samples from Syria to help determine whether President Bashar Assad has unleashed sarin gas against rebel fighters.

The soil samples are being provided by western intelligence agencies, The U.K. Guardian reported.

The White House has said on several prior occasions that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would be the game-changer in America’s involvement. So far, the U.S. has only provided non-lethal aid, including medical and food supplies, to Free Syrian forces fighting to oust Mr. Assad.

A positive soil sample would increase pressure on President Obama to act.

France, Britain and Israel intelligence officials have already said they have proof that chemical weapons have been used in Aleppo and in Homs.

Syria has so far kept U.N. investigators from entering the country to test for sarin, The Guardian reported. But that’s not going to halt the investigation, Jeffrey Feltman, U.N. under-secretary for political affairs said, in The Guardian.

“The secretary-general’s position is that, at this time, the mission should investigate the allegations pertaining to incidents in Aleppo and Homs,” he said, to the Security Council. “While awaiting access to the Syrian territory, the experts of the mission are studying the information on the alleged incidents of the use of chemical weapons provided to them by member states.”

U.N. investigators are on standby to deploy to Syria within 24 to 48 hours, if the government allows, he said.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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