News / Middle East

UN Panel: No Proof of Syria Nerve Gas Claim

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, May 6, 2013.White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, May 6, 2013.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, May 6, 2013.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, May 6, 2013.
VOA News
A United Nations panel investigating war crimes in Syria says it has found no conclusive evidence that either side in the conflict used chemical weapons, distancing itself from a member's claim citing "strong, concrete suspicions" that rebel forces had used sarin gas.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic said Monday it wanted to clarify "that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration is "highly skeptical" of suggestions that Syrian rebels used chemical weapons. The U.S. State Department added that Washington's position is that any use of chemical weapons in Syria likely would have originated with the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The statements come after panel member and former war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte told Swiss TV the commission has indications Syrian rebel forces opposed to President Assad used the nerve agent sarin as a weapon.

What is Sarin?

  • Man-made nerve agent originally developed as a pesticide
  • Highly toxic, odorless, tasteless, colorless liquid
  • Exposure can be by inhalation, ingestion, skin absorption
  • People can recover with treatment from mild or moderate exposure
  • Possibly used during Iraq-Iran war
  • Used in 1995 Tokyo subway attack
Del Ponte said her comments were based on testimony from victims, doctors and field hospitals in neighboring countries. She said investigators do not yet have certain proof, and also cautioned that the investigation is not complete. Del Ponte did not provide details about where or when the chemical weapons may have been used.

The commission is separate from a fact-finding mission appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that so far has not been allowed to work inside Syria to probe possible chemical weapons use.

Both the Syrian government and the opposition have accused the other side of using the weapons. British, French and Israeli officials also have charged that Assad's government employed chemical arms against rebels.

Del Ponte said the commission has not yet seen evidence of that use by government forces, but that the investigation continues.

The Obama administration has said U.S. intelligence agencies assess "with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin."
At the same time, the administration said it would "seek to establish credible and corroborated facts" and "fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria."

  • Rebel fighters of the Syrian Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) talk in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo, May 9, 2013.
  • A view shows damaged buildings and debris in the Khaldiyeh district of Homs, May 9, 2013.
  • Syrian children play near a water distribution point in the Almyassar central district of Aleppo, May 8, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter holds his weapon in Raqqa province, east Syria, May 6, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter stands behind a pile of sandbags in Raqqa province, east Syria, May 6, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to head toward the front line in the al-Ziyabiya area, Damascus, May 5, 2013.
  • An armored vehicle is seen parked as Free Syrian Army fighters gather on a street in the refugee camp of Yarmouk, near Damascus, May 5, 2013.
  • This image taken from video obtained from the Ugarit News shows smoke and fire filling the the skyline after an Israeli airstrike, Damascus, May 5, 2013.
  • This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows damaged buildings wrecked by an Israeli airstrike in Damascus, May 5, 2013.
  • This image provided by ENN shows a protester with a sign reading "If America does not know who used the chemical weapons, so it could be flying saucers from another planet," Sarmada, Idlib, Syria, May 3, 2013.
  • A man reacts after his grandson was injured during what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Raqqa province, Syria, May 2, 2013. 
  • Residents inspect a damaged building that was shelled by forces activists say were loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Raqqa province, Syria, May 2, 2013.
  • This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visiting the Umayyad Electrical Station, Damascus, Syria, May 1, 2013.

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Comment Sorting
by: D Jones from: US
May 06, 2013 9:28 AM
But the question is: WHO is supply the so-called rebels with Sarin? Is it the US? It is obvious that the 'rebels' can't just make it in the bathroom. I am just as sure that the US will block any investigation as to the source of the Sarin. After all, the US would not want it to come out that they were supplying nerve gas used on civilians in an effort to blame the Assad givernment, now would they.
I do hope the truth comes out, but I doubt it ever will, or not in time.
In Response

by: Al Prazolam from: Switzerland
May 06, 2013 5:25 PM
You would be surprised how easy Sarin is to make, and with an ally like the former Soviet Union, you can bet they are stacked to ceiling with various weapons. It isn't hard to steal a small quantity either and perform a desperate act to garner support, especially when the US president clearly draws the line just spelling it out to the rebels just how to get the support.

by: Loretta Ceerby from: USA
May 06, 2013 8:28 AM
the UN has lost all credibility after much repeated attacks on Israel. Today the UN is the forum for the expression of Muslim hate towards the US/Israel/Canada/Britain - really shameful that Islam had managed to corrupt and degrade the UN. Remember, Syria chaired the UN department on "Human Rights..." what a shame!
In Response

by: Abdel from: Morocco
May 07, 2013 3:57 AM
I think that the shame is how the US and its allies manipulate and exploit the UN in order to reach its strategic and economic purposes, and the shame all the shame how the Israelis kills childrens and womens in Palestine with a cold blood and in front of the world community...
In Response

by: Al Prazolam from: Switzerland
May 06, 2013 5:20 PM
Since when has the US cared about the UN's opinions? Syrian Muslims are fighting on both sides, with Sunnis and Shiites doing battle once again, some within the rebel force itself, so your rhetoric on Islam is flawed to say the least. Assad is less dangerous to US interests than an armed rebel force would be. remember when we armed the Afghan rebels to the teeth to depose the Soviets in the 80s only to have those weapons used against us a dozen years later?
In Response

by: Lampard08 from: US
May 06, 2013 3:40 PM
I still recall Colin Powell selling "WMD's" in UN. Well its clear facts and evidence don't matter anymore. The powerful just bully the weak and influence the sheep through sheer propaganda.
In Response

by: joe from: texas
May 06, 2013 3:40 PM
oh c'mon....the US Govt, Britain, France and any Western Govt has been saying it is the Syrian Govt that used chemical weapons, then this report comes out and no one wants to even consider the fact or possibility that what if in fact the rebels did use it. Stop saying the UN is in support of the muslims this and arabs that.....after all are the rebels not muslim too?

by: Al Prazolam from: Switzerland
May 06, 2013 8:12 AM
The rebels using Sarin was far more likely than the Assad regime using them. This action sheds light on the desperate frame of mind the rebels are in. The US and others should take note of this and not arm them any further, because if they use Sarin on themselves in an attempt to garner support, what will they do with those weapons if they succeed and overthrow Assad?

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