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September 13, 2013

UN Chief Expects 'Overwhelming Report' on Syria Gas Attack

by Margaret Besheer

The U.N. secretary-general said Friday that he believes the findings his team of chemical weapons experts will present in the coming days will be “an overwhelming report” on last month's attack on Syrian civilians near Damascus.  

Speaking to an audience of mostly women at a U.N. event Friday, Ban Ki-moon said he is expecting very soon the report from Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom and his team on the August 21 poison gas attack outside the Syrian capital.

“I believe the report will be an overwhelming report that the chemical weapons was used, even though I cannot publicly say at this time before I receive this report,” he said.

Diplomats say Ban is to receive the report on Monday. He will brief members of the Security Council and the General Assembly on its contents soon after.

The U.N. team's report will focus on analysis of biomedical and environmental samples they collected from the area of the attack. The team also took statements from medical personnel and survivors.

The team's mandate is to say only whether chemical agents were used, not who used them.

Ban also expressed his continued concern over the crisis in Syria, which has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced at least six million.

Speaking about calls for President Bashar al-Assad to leave power, he said it is for the people of Syria to decide.

“I think that's their choice," he said. "What happened is that he has committed many crimes against humanity. Therefore, I'm sure that there will be, surely, the process of accountability when everything is over.”

Ban said the international community must press for a political solution and that it is time for the parties to stop fighting and start talking.  Ban said he is encouraged by U.S. and Russian discussions taking place in Geneva.