In the latest violence, an air raid hit a high school in the Northern rebel-held city of Raqa killing 16 people, including 10 students, as troops battled rebels on several fronts, a watchdog said. A team of around 20 inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is due in Damascus on Tuesday and will immediately meet regime officials, an OPCW official said.

"At this point, we have absolutely no reason to doubt the information provided by the Syrian regime," the official told journalists at its headquarters in The Hague on Sunday. On Monday another group of UN inspectors is due to wrap up a probe into several alleged chemical attacks. They hope to draft by late October a comprehensive report, which will also cover the August 21 attack in Damascus suburbs said to have killed hundreds of civilians with the nerve agent sarin.

The regime and the rebels have traded accusations of chemical weapons use during the 30-month war that has killed more than 110,000 people and forced two million to flee. The United States threatened military action after the August 21 attack, in which it said regime forces had deliberately killed hundreds of civilians with rocket-delivered nerve agents.

Syria denied the allegations but agreed to relinquish its chemical arsenal to head off a strike under a US-Russian deal which was enshrined in a landmark UN Security Council resolution. In his first comments since the resolution was passed on Friday, Assad told Italy's Rai News 24 television his regime "will comply" with the resolution.

"Of course we will comply with it, and history proves that we have always honoured all treaties we have signed," he said, according to the state news agency SANA. Assad also said warming relations between the United States and Syria's ally Iran could be beneficial for Damascus and the region, "so long as the United States is honest".

But he said that most European countries "are unable" to play a role in the much-delayed peace conference on Syria which is now being planned for mid-November in Geneva. UN chief Ban Ki-moon pressed for the conference during his first meeting on Saturday with Syria's opposition National Coalition chief Ahmad Jarba, who said he was ready to send a delegation to the conference, a UN spokesman said.

(Agencies)

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