DAMASCUS, Syria —
U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the timing reflected the urgency of getting any samples to laboratories, noting that the inspectors must do that themselves to "ensure the chain of custody." He said the inspectors intend to return to Syria to investigate other alleged attacks.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said his government would "reject any partial report published by the U.N. secretary-general before the mission finished its work and the results of analyses of samples taken by the mission are completed."
In a phone call with Ban, he also said Syria expects the U.N. to investigate the sites where Syrian troops were exposed to toxic gases.
Witnesses said they were seen visiting a military hospital Friday, possibly to take samples from Syrian soldiers that the government says inhaled poison gas earlier this week near Damascus.
Both the rebels and the Syrian government blame each other for using chemical weapons.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned that military strikes would lead to long-term destabilization of Syria and the region. He has spoken against any use of force without U.N. Security Council approval, which he said would be a "crude violation of international law."
In Paris, Hollande suggested that intervention could even come ahead of Wednesday's session of the French Parliament, called to discuss the Syria situation; lawmakers' approval is not needed for Hollande to order military action.
"I will not take a decision before having all the elements that would justify it," he told Le Monde. However, noting that he had convened parliament, he added: "And if I have (already) committed France, the government will inform (lawmakers) of the means and objectives."
The British parliament voted Thursday night against military action in Syria. Italy and Germany have said they won't take part in any military action that doesn't have the backing of the U.N. Security Council, where Russia would almost certainly wield a veto.