News / Middle East

Kerry: UN Report Confirms Assad Forces Used Sarin in Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry talks about Syria and chemical weapons ahead of next week's United Nations General Assembly at the State Department in Washington, September 19, 2013.
Secretary of State John Kerry talks about Syria and chemical weapons ahead of next week's United Nations General Assembly at the State Department in Washington, September 19, 2013.
Carla BabbMichael Lipin
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.N. report about last month's chemical weapons attack in Syria confirms that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces carried out the attack.
 
Kerry told reporters at the State Department Thursday that the facts are not complicated.
 
"Sarin was used. Sarin killed. The world can decide whether it was used by the regime which has used chemical weapons before, the regime which had the rockets and the weapons, or whether the opposition secretly went unnoticed into territory they don't control to fire rockets they don't have containing sarin that they don't possess to kill their own people," he said. "And that without even being noticed, they just dissembled it all and packed up and got out of the center of Damascus controlled by Assad. Please."
 
In an earlier interview with the U.S. network Fox News, Assad denied his forces launched the poison gas attack that killed hundreds near Damascus.  He said he is fully committed to disposing of his government's chemical arsenal, and he promised to abide by a U.S.-Russia deal aimed at destroying the chemical stockpiles by the middle of 2014.
 
Assad described the situation as "complicated," saying destruction of the weapons would cost about $1 billion and would take a year or "maybe a little more."
 
More than end-date needed

American University international relations professor Sharon Weiner told VOA the success of the U.S.-Russian timetable will depend on both powers agreeing to more than just an end-date.

"In terms of destroying the weapons, can it be done in that period of time? Absolutely," she said. "But, the question is reaching agreement on how you are certain that you have all the weapons and that there is not some residual concern that you missed something.”
 
Weiner also said the ultimate cost of destroying Syria's stockpiles is unclear.
 
"It depends on how far you have to transport them and ... how much you have to pay to protect the people who are destroying them. I think anyone who tries to give a realistic estimation of the cost right now just doesn't have the information they need to do that,” she said.
 
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said his country has no plans to destroy Syria's chemical weapons on its own territory, although he acknowledged it has the facilities to do so.

Logistical issues
 
Russia and the United States are the only countries with the industrial scale capacity to handle mustard, VX, sarin or cyanide-armed munitions, but the import of chemical weapons is banned under U.S. law.
 
The disarmament plan, which is still being debated by U.N. Security Council envoys, requires Syria's government to turn over details of its chemical weapons by Saturday. Assad said he is willing to do this "tomorrow," and can provide experts access to the sites where the weapons are stored.
 
The Syrian leader criticized this week's U.N. report that confirms sarin nerve gas was used in an attack against civilians in the rebel-held suburb of Ghouta on August 21.
 
Although the report did not assign blame, the U.S. and other Western nations say it strongly suggested that government forces, not rebels, were responsible for the attack.
 
Assad called the findings "unrealistic," expressing doubt about the authenticity of the large amount of photos and videos purporting to show the aftermath of the attack.
 
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said evidence gathered by U.N. investigators in Syria and released Monday "indisputably" and "overwhelmingly" confirms the use of sarin on a relatively large scale in the attack on Ghouta.
 
The U.S. says the attack killed 1,400 people.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Igor from: Russia
September 19, 2013 11:33 PM
Mr.Kerry, how can you be sure that the terrorist rebels do not have the rockets and the chemical to lauch the attack? Have you inspected all kinds of weapons that the rebels have yet? Or you have only asked the terrorists if they have the chemical weapons or not? Why no rebel but civilians were killed by the attack? How do you know that the rebels have never you chemical weapons before?

by: JKort from: Virginia
September 19, 2013 6:31 PM
Kerry is confused by the meaning of the word, 'definitive'. In fact, the UN was under strict instructions to determine ONLY if chems were used. They were specifically told that the question of who launched the attack was not part of their purview. I have said for almost a year that as mysterious and messy as Benghazi is, the nature of the US involvement in Syria will make Benghazi look straightforward. In Syria, after Assad spent a year trying to get a UN team in to investigate chem use in the war, we are expected to believe that he couldn't resist and let one fly - against civilians - in Damascus - under the noses of the UN - in a move that would virtually guarantee US military action??? Really? And then, when we didn't buy that - they made up an airstrike threat to get the UN team out of Syria before they could do a thorough investigation. Hmm. And Benghazi was the result of an amateur video...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs