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Middle east

Chemical weapons used in Syria, says French daily

© Image by SANA, March 2013. Medics at a hospital in city of Aleppo.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-27

Correspondents from French daily "Le Monde" on Monday published first-hand accounts of chemical weapons attacks on Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad as diplomats raced to draw up a roadmap to peace for the war-torn country.

French daily "Le Monde" described in horrific detail on Monday several chemical weapons attacks it witnessed against Syrian rebels waging war against President Bashar al-Assad as the top diplomats from the US and Russia prepared to meet in Paris to discuss a way to end the bloody civil conflict.

"Le Monde" gave first-hand accounts of chemical attacks against Syrian rebels, gathered by correspondents during two months of clandestine reporting in the war-torn country. A photographer from the leading French daily suffered blurred vision and respiratory difficulties for four days as a result of one such attack.

“The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their pupils shrink, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing, sometimes in the extreme; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness. The fighters worst affected need to be evacuated before they suffocate,” the daily reported.

Medical staff, including one doctor, had to be treated for similar ailments after coming in contact with rebel fighters who were exposed to chemical weapons.

The newspaper said the deadly gases were inflicted via rockets and landmine-like and grenade-like arms but were difficult to detect as they had no odor, smoke or sound.

It said Jobar, a key battleground near the Syrian capital of Damascus, was the scene of regular chemical weapons attacks in April, but reporters encountered similar cases across a much larger region.

“The aim of the attacks seemed to be essentially tactical at this stage – an attempt to destablise rebel units in areas where government soldiers have been unable to dislodge them,” "Le Monde" said.

The report said that the targets of chemical attacks had been fairly limited so far, and were thus difficult to prove. Nevertheless, it said samples from infected patients had been taken and smuggled out of the country for analysis.

Heading to ‘Geneva 2’

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were scheduled to meet privately in Paris on Monday to discuss the details of an international conference to end the Syrian conflict.

The peace talks, known as "Geneva 2" in reference to a similar initiative in June, could be held in the next few weeks in the Swiss city. However, Syria’s opposition coalition has struggled with internal divisions.

The US, Britain and France have long clashed with Russia at the UN Security Council over what action should be taken with regard to Syria.

US President Barack Obama has warned Damascus against the use of chemical weapons, calling it a "red line." But Washington has as of yet resisted sending lethal military aid to the Syrian rebels, despite reports of chemical arms.

The Syrian revolt began in March 2011, with peaceful protests against Assad's autocratic rule that were met with a brutal crackdown from the military, sparking an armed insurgency that has also drawn criticism for abuses.

 

Date created : 2013-05-27

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