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

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week 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.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid