Syria: UN Team Examining Site, Assad Warns US



DAMASCUS - As pressure mounted for a strong Western response against the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, United Nations inspectors were heading Monday to the site of last week's suspected chemical attack in the outskirts of the Syrian capital.

Both the Syrian government and rebel forces have agreed to a ceasefire during the visit, according to Al Jazeera.

The UN team, made up of 20 inspectors, will attempt to determine whether chemical weapons were used by taking soil, blood, urine and tissue samples for laboratory testing, according to the BBC. The team, however, is unlikely to be able to determine who was responsable for the attack. The same inspectors have been in Syria since August 18 in order to look into three other alleged chemical attacks.

After Wednesday's attack, which reportedly killed at least 300 people including scores of children, a growing number of foreign governments have criticized Assad's government for taking too long to allow access to the UN team. Over the weekend, Western leaders appeared to be moving toward a coordinated response to events in Syria:

- The White House said there is little doubt Syrian forces used chemical weapons in the attack, according to the ItwItw">New York Times.

- UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that action could be taken without UN approval if there was "great humanitarian need" in Syria, according to the BBC.

- Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said around 30 countries were engaged in discussions on how to act on the Syrian case if the UN cannot agree.

- According to Al Jazeera, French President François Hollande told Barack Obama on Sunday that "everything was consistent" with the conclusion that the Syrian government was responsable for the attack. France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said outside powers would negotiate a "proportionate response" in the "days to come", according to Le Monde.

- The US has bolstered its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, while US, UK and their allies' military leaders are meeting in Jordan.

- Assad has warned the US against military intervention, stating it would end in failure, "just like in all the previous wars they waged, starting with Vietnam and up to our days," he told the Russian newspaper Izvestiya on Monday.

- Syria's ally Russia welcomed the decision to allow UN inspectors onto the alleged attack site, but warned the West against jumping to conclusions, the BBC said.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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