Russia has told the United Nations that Syrian rebels fighting the government are likely producing chemical weapons and had used them in an attack in March that killed two dozen people and injured more than 80 in the city of Aleppo.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Tuesday that Syrian rebels had likely manufactured and used chemical weapons –including the sarin nerve agent– in the bloody civil war against forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said a Russian scientific team had access to the site of an attack in Khan al-Assal, a government-controlled suburb of Aleppo, where 26 people were killed and 86 others injured by chemical weapons on March 19.
Churkin claimed results revealed that the unguided Basha’ir-3 rocket that had hit Khan al-Assal was not a military-standard chemical weapon, but one that was being produced by a brigade affiliated with the opposition Free Syrian Army.
“Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was the armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal,” according to Churkin.
Russia, Assad’s closest ally, said the samples taken from the impact site of the gas-laden projectile were analyzed at a Russian laboratory certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
West to review findings
Reacting to the Russian claim, the White House said it could not confirm allegations that Syrian rebels were behind chemical attacks.
“We have yet to see any evidence that backs up the assertion that anybody besides the Syrian government has had the ability to use chemical weapons or has used chemical weapons,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday.
Russia said it would provide the over 80-page report to fellow UN Security Council members United States, Britain and France so they could review the findings, but that the document would not be made public.
France and the United States have previously claimed Assad’s forces used sarin gas against rebels.
French daily "Le Monde" reported in May that sarin had been used by government forces the previous month in Jobar, a key battleground near the Syrian capital of Damascus, and that journalists had smuggled samples out of the country for tests. Days later Paris said that it was “certain” Assad was guilty of using chemical weapons.
In June, Barack Obama’s administration says it had “high confidence” that the Syrian army had killed up to 150 people with sarin gas.
Acting US Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said Assad should now allow UN chemical weapons experts into the country to conduct an investigation of the Khan al-Assal incident as well as the French and American allegations of chemical weapons use.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-07-10