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Russia terms reports of Syrian chemical weapons as "planned provocation"

MOSCOW, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Russian Foreign Ministry termed on Wednesday media reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria as "planned provocation" against the ruling regime.

"Moscow considers it important to conduct an objective and professional investigation," ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters, adding the provocation undermined the efforts for convening an international conference on Syria.

The Syrian opposition accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of killing as many as 1,300 people in chemical weapon attacks in suburbs of Damascus on Wednesday, a charge denied by the Syrian government.

Lukashevich said later in the day that a homemade rocket with " an unidentified chemical agent" was launched Wednesday in the eastern suburb of Damascus from an area occupied by opposition militants.

"All this looks very much like an attempt to create a pretext for demanding that the UN Security Council side with the opponents of the government," he said.

Russia urged "all those who have the possibility to influence armed extremists make every effort to end provocations with chemical agents," he added.

A UN team of chemical weapons investigators, headed by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, started working in Damascus on Monday. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the team would investigate the alleged chemical weapons usage on March 19 in Khan al-Assal and attacks in two other locations being kept confidential for security reasons.

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