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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More