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UN chief ‘sceptical’ of Assad chemical arms claims


In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 on Friday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon admitted that he shared the international community’s doubts over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s willingness to comply fully with a chemical weapons deal.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shares the international community’s scepticism about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s willingness to comply with a chemical weapons deal, he told FRANCE 24 in an interview on Friday.

As US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, continue their talks in Geneva on Saturday to try to hammer out a deal on eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, Ban said he welcomed the initiative.

“That is positive, but at the same time I sensed in the international community some sense of scepticism,” said the UN chief. When asked if he shared those doubts, Ban responded, “Yes, I share [them]. Therefore, it is important for Syrian authorities to make a sincere and faithful implementation of what they have said, to prove that their proposals are sincere and true.”

The US, France and other allies have expressed doubts about Assad's intentions and have called for the threat of force to ensure the Syrian regime holds up its end of the deal.

Ban’s interview with FRANCE 24 came shortly after the UN chief, in an unguarded moment, said Assad had "carried out many crimes against humanity" and that there must be "accountability" once war is over.

The comment was made during an International Women’s Forum meeting in New York on Friday and Ban probably believed the statement was off-the-record, but it was picked up on the internal UN broadcasting system.

The uncharacteristic frankness of the admission offered some insight into what the UN chief really thinks about the Syrian leader and the ongoing international efforts to reach a chemical weapons elimination deal with the regime.

UN report likely to confirm chemical arms, says Ban

At a UN meeting earlier on Friday, Ban also noted that a UN chemical weapons inspectors’ report on the August 21 chemical attack on the western suburbs of Damascus was likely to confirm the use of chemical weapons.

"I believe that the report will be an overwhelming, overwhelming report that chemical weapons [were] used, even though I cannot publicly say at this time before I receive this report," Ban said at a UN meeting.

More than 1,400 people died in the attack on the western Damascus neighborhoods of Ghouta, according to US figures.

The UN weapons inspection team, led by Ake Sellstrom of Sweden, is not mandated to uncover who committed  the attack. Sellstrom is expected to submit the findings of his report on Monday.

The United States, France and Britain blame Assad for the chemical attack while the Syrian government, backed by Russia, says it was opposition rebels who used the banned gas.

Speaking to FRANCE 24 on Friday evening, Ban noted that if a chemical weapons attack were confirmed by UN experts, it would be “a horrendous violation of international law”.

“I believe the international community should take the firm and necessary action to make sure that this kind of crime never happens again,” he said, adding that the UN Security Council would need to play a “decisive role” in preventing a recurrence.
“The only viable option is a political solution” for the Syrian crisis, said Ban.


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