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U.N. inspectors arrive at military hospital in Damascus

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare for an offensive against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's Salaheddine neighb
Free Syrian Army fighters prepare for an offensive against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's Salaheddine neighb

BEIRUT (Reuters) - United Nations inspectors arrived at a military hospital in a government-held area of Damascus on Friday to visit soldiers affected by an apparent chemical attack, a Reuters witness said.

The inspectors have spent the week visiting rebel-controlled areas on the outskirts of Damascus after reports of a poison gas attack last week that the opposition blames on President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government accuses the rebels of firing chemical munitions at civilians and soldiers.

Witnesses said the team were meeting with soldiers at the Mezze Military Airport who government media said were exposed to poison gas in the Damascus suburb of Jobar on Saturday.

A Reuters witness said the U.N. inspectors were not carrying body armor, indicating they would not cross into rebel-held territory after their visit to the military base.

Official media said some soldiers were overcome by fumes after finding chemical agents in a tunnel that had been used by insurgents.

The state news agency SANA said soldiers "suffered from cases of suffocation." State TV footage did not appear to show evidence of chemical weapons. It showed five blue and green plastic drums, normally used to transport oil, lined against a wall in a room and several rusty mortar bombs and grenades.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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