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U.N. chemical weapons team vehicle fired on in Syria

9:08 AM, Aug 26, 2013   |    comments
A U.N. team investigating an alleged chemical attack that killed hundreds last month in a Damascus suburb, leaves their hotel in a convoy, in Damascus, Syria.
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(USA TODAY) -- A vehicle used by U.N. chemical weapons investigators was shot at Monday by snipers, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says.

There were no reported injuries.

Martin Nesirky, the U.N. spokesperson, says the shooting took place in the buffer zone area between rebel- and government-controlled territory.

"The first vehicle of the Chemical Weapons Investigation Team was deliberately shot at multiple times by unidentified snipers in the buffer zone area," the spokespeson said.

"As the car was no longer serviceable, the team returned safely back to the government checkpoint," the spokesperson said.

The 8-vehicle convoy included six vehicles carrying the U.N. experts, one with security forces and one ambulance.

He said the team will return to the area after replacing the vehicle.

"It has to be stressed again that all sides need to extend their cooperation so that the Team can safely carry out their important work," the spokesperson said.

Syria agreed Sunday to allow aU.N. investigation into the alleged chemical weapons attack last week in the suburbs of Damascus that killed hundreds. The White House official said the offer comes too late.

The White House has concluded that there is "very little doubt" that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in the attack, increasing the chances of a U.S. military strike.

The chemical weapons assessment is based on a variety of evidence and represents a broad consensus, according to a statement from a senior administration official.

The official requested anonymity; deliberations are ongoing and no decision has been reached about what to do.

President Obama was presented with a range of military options as he huddled with his national security team on Saturday to discuss Syria.

Military analysts say the likeliest option would be a punitive strike designed to send a message to the regime of Bashar Assad but that would not be designed to decapitate the regime or dramatically alter the course of the civil war raging there.

"Behavior modification would be the main objective rather than decisively shifting the situation on the ground or removing the regime," said Jeffrey White, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former Defense Intelligence Agency official.

Administration officials have been wary of any military intervention that would draw the United States into a lengthy commitment, and they have also expressed concerns that the collapse of the regime might lead to a failed state or the emergence of al-Qaeda affiliates.

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