Inspectors complete difficult task
They gathered samples despite delays and attacks. Next comes meticulous analysis.
According to the team's U.N. mandate, the analysis will establish if a chemical attack took place, but not who was responsible for a deadly Aug. 21 attack that Doctors Without Borders says killed 355 people and included the use of toxic gas. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that Washington knows, based on intelligence, that the Syrian regime carefully prepared for days to launch a chemical weapons attack.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to get an initial briefing on the U.N. team's work this weekend from disarmament chief Angela Kane. The team is expected to leave Syria on Saturday, but it remains unclear how long the process of examining samples will take.
U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the team has concluded its collection of evidence, including visits to field hospitals, interviews with witnesses and doctors, and gathering biological samples and environmental samples - and is now packing up and getting ready to leave Syria.
"It has to be accurate. The procedure has to be absolutely rigid and well-documented," former OPCW worker Ralf Trapp said Friday.
Key to the procedure is a rock-solid chain of custody rules for the samples and analysis of each sample by two or possibly three labs. The OPCW works with 21 laboratories around the world that have to pass a proficiency test each year to ensure their work meets the organization's standards.