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UN Chemical-Weapons Experts Back In Syria

Members of the UN chemical-weapons investigation team arrive in Damascus on September 25.

Members of the UN chemical-weapons investigation team arrive in Damascus on September 25.

UN inspectors have returned to Damascus to continue an investigation into alleged poison-gas attacks.

The group, led by chief expert Ake Sellstrom, is expected to examine the alleged use of chemical weapons some 14 times in the 30-month conflict, which is estimated to have killed more than 110,000 people.

After a preliminary visit last month, the team concluded in a report presented on September 16 that banned chemical weapons had been used on a wide scale, including in an attack in the eastern Ghouta neighborhood near Damascus on August 21.

Sellstrom said at the time that the report was only an interim document and that reports about other chemical-weapons attacks needed to be looked into.

Sellstrom has said his team expects to present a final report addressing all of the accusations "possibly by the end of October."

Islamist Rebel Factions Slam Coalition

In other news, several Syrian rebel groups, including a powerful Al-Qaeda-linked faction, say they reject the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition in exile.

In a video statement on September 25, 13 rebel groups -- led by the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front -- said the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition (SNC) no longer represented their interests.

They called on those fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad to unite under a "clear Islamic framework" -- an apparent reference to the Al-Qaeda faction's aspirations to create an Islamic state in Syria.

The statement is seen as a blow to efforts by Western powers and their Gulf Arab allies to encourage the SNC to lead a moderate force within Syria under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP