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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
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 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 With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
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 Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic 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.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

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