The U.N. team investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syria's government last week plans to submit its preliminary report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as soon as it leaves that country on Saturday.
The team is expected to complete its work on Friday and leave Syria a day later, the secretary-general said, adding that the experts "should be allowed to conclude their investigation activities."
Ban said during an appearance Thursday in Vienna that he spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday and told him the United Nations wanted more time for the inspectors to finish their mission.
"I expressed my sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work," Ban said.
The United States, France and Britain are preparing for a military strike against Syria in response to the alleged chemical attack on the rebel-controlled Ghouta area outside Damascus, where the opposition alleges the Assad regime killed more than 1,000 people on Aug. 21.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, meanwhile, told a group of Yemeni lawmakers on Thursday that his country was prepared to defend itself from any foreign military attack.
Syria "will defend itself against any aggression" and is committed to "freeing itself of the terrorism supported by Israel and the foreign countries," Assad said.
The "threats of a direct attack will increase the defense of our firm principles and the independent decisions that we have made according to the will of the Syrian people," the president said.
More than 92,000 people died in Syria's internal conflict between March 2011 and April 2013, according to a report released in June by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. EFE