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Middle east

No proof Syria rebels used chemical weapons, says UN

© AFP

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-07

A UN commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria has distanced itself from comments made by one of its investigators indicating that Syrian rebel forces have used chemical weapons, saying on Monday that it had “no conclusive proof”.

A UN commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria said on Monday that it had “no conclusive proof” that opposition rebel forces in the country had used the deadly nerve agent sarin in the fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, playing down comments made by one of its members the day before.

UN human rights investigator Carla Del Ponte publically stated on Sunday that her commission had gathered compelling testimony from medical staff and victims in Syria indicating that rebel combatants had used sarin during fighting. A former Swiss attorney general, Del Ponte also served as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Speaking in an interview with Swiss Italian broadcaster RSI, Del Ponte said that, “According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons.”

Although she added that there was no “irrefutable proof” of the allegations, she did say that the commission harboured “very strong suspicions, concrete suspicions that sarin gas has been used.”

Following Del Ponte’s comments, her commission issued a statement on Monday mitigating the allegations.

“The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict,” it said.

US ‘skeptical’ Syrian rebels used chemical weapons

Meanwhile, the White House expressed its doubts over Del Ponte’s revelations, saying it was “highly skeptical” that Syrian rebel forces had used sarin.

"We find it highly likely that any chemical weapon use that has taken place in Syria was done by the Assad regime. And that remains our position," White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters.

In recent months, both Assad’s government and rebel fighters have accused each other of using chemical weapons, an act of war prohibited under international law.

In late April, the US announced that it believed to “varying degrees of confidence” that sarin has been used by Syria’s government on its people.

Since then, US President Barack Obama, who previously said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would represent crossing a “red line,” has come under increasing pressure to take action. The White House, however, has said that it will keep all options on the table, but said it will not set a timeline for a response.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-05-06

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