An agreement under discussion now envisions a cessation of hostilities so chemical experts can travel across the country, including to many conflict areas where WFP and other humanitarian workers have been unable to bring in desperately needed aid, Ertharin Cousin said.

"So this is an opportunity for us to hopefully overcome the hurdle that today we've been unable to achieve," she said.

The United States and Russia brokered an agreement for Syria to give up its chemical weapons but UN diplomats say they are at odds on details of a UN Security Council resolution spelling out how it should be done and the possible consequences if Syria doesn't comply.

Cousin urged the international community to demand that the Security Council make any cease-fire a broad one. "When you talk about a cessation of hostilities to allow access for the chemical (weapons) workers, that cessation in hostilities should also allow access for humanitarian workers," she said.

WFP is currently feeding 3 million people inside Syria and 1.2 million in neighbouring countries. Cousin said the goal is to step up supplies so that 4 million internally displaced people and 1.5 million refugees are getting food by the end of October.

While the agency is working in all 14 Syrian governorates, Cousin said there are pockets in many of them that humanitarian workers can't reach because of fighting.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition accused government forces Monday of tightening their siege during the past month in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where UN inspectors reported that chemical weapons were used in an August 21 attack.

"Assad's forces are starving people to death in those areas," the coalition claimed. "The specter of famine looms in the horizon as more than 2 million people remain under siege." Cousin said WFP hasn't had access to an opposition-controlled area in Ghouta called Muhammadiyah, which is besieged by government forces.

She also pointed to an area in the Kurdish-dominated Hasaka region in the northeast controlled by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and an opposition-controlled area on the outskirts of the northern city of Aleppo where the agency has had trouble operating.

(Agencies)

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