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UN inspectors gather evidence of chemical att -

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TONY EASTLEY: UN inspectors have come under sniper fire in Damascus as they investigated last week's chemical weapons attack.

The UN says their mission was a success though, and they returned with blood samples from some of the victims.

But an international storm continues to brew as the US and its Western allies contemplate military strikes on the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Middle East correspondent, Matt Brown, reports from Jerusalem.

MATT BROWN: It wasn't long after they'd left their hotel in Damascus when the inspectors came under sniper fire - the lead car took several direct hits to the windscreen and the convoy had to turn back.

But they headed out again and plunged in to the rebel-held areas.

Unverified amateur video shows an inspection team talking to a doctor who says that what they're seeing is the result of chemical weapons, and the team interviews an apparent witness about the night of the attack.

(Man speaking)

"There are chemicals, and then we went outside to bring ambulances," he says. "What did you feel?", he's asked. "I started to get dizzy, and I couldn't see anymore, and I wanted to throw up. I didn't see in front of me and then I fell down.''

Farhan Haq, the spokesman for UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, says the team managed to visit two hospitals, interview doctors, witnesses and survivors and take crucial samples.

And, despite concern that almost a week has passed since the attack and there's been an ongoing bombardment, he says the evidence will be useful.

FARHAN HAQ: These are people who have considerable expertise with chemical weapons. They know how to find the traces of those weapons. These are people both from the organisation that deals with chemical weapons and the World Health Organization.

So they know both how to monitor traces of chemical weapons and their residue and how to get information, the relevant health information.

MATT BROWN: The inspectors are planning to head out again later today. But their dangerous mission will not immediately give the answers the world is waiting for. They don't have a mandate to decide who is responsible for the crime.

Syria's main ally, Russia, would almost certainly continue to veto a UN Security Council resolution against Syria. But US allies, including Britain, have started talking about taking action regardless.

That's prompted this warning from Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

(Sergei Lavrov speaking)

"The use of force without the approval of the United Nations Security Council," he says, "is a very grave violation of international law".

Some of the most senior military officials from the US, Britain, France and Syria's main regional foes, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, have been meeting in Jordan for a pre-planned conference on Syria. The meeting's co-host, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, has previously warned about the risks of a Western attack. The apparent use of chemical weapons has done nothing to ease those risks but it has added urgency and outrage to their deliberations.

This is Matt Brown, reporting for AM.