News / Middle East

UN: 'Convincing Evidence' of Syria Chemical Attack

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, left,  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, second right, pose for the media prior to a meeting on Syria at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, Sept. 16, 2013.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, left, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, second right, pose for the media prior to a meeting on Syria at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, Sept. 16, 2013.
VOA News
United Nations inspectors say there is "clear and convincing evidence" that chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale in an attack in Syria last month that killed hundreds of people.

In a report issued Monday, inspectors said environmental, chemical and medical samples show "unequivocally and objectively" that "surface-to-surface rockets" containing the nerve agent sarin were used in the Ghouta area of Damascus' on August 21.

The report cited survivors who reported "a military attack with shelling," followed by an onset of symptoms including "blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and an eventual loss of consciousness."

The inspectors were asked to determine whether chemical weapons were used, and not who unleashed them.

UN Report on Ghouta Attack

  • Chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale
  • Environmental, chemical and medical evidence provides clear evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing sarin were used

  • Impacted and exploded surface-to-surface rockets were found to contain sarin
  • Close to rocket impact sites, the environment was found to contain sarin
  • Patients/survivors were diagnosed as intoxicated by an organophosphorous compound
  • Blood and urine samples from those patients were positive for sarin and sarin signatures

Source: UN

But the Obama administration said the U.N. report makes it clear that President Bashar al-Assad's government was responsible for the attack that Washington says killed more than 1,400 last month. A White House spokesman noted that only the Syrian army has surface-to-surface rockets.

Britain's U.N. envoy echoed the comments, saying the report leaves "no remaining doubt" that the Syrian government was responsible for the August 21 attack. Syria maintains it was rebel fighters, not government forces, who were responsible.

Almost all of the biomedical samples examined tested positive for sarin exposure, including 93 percent collected from urine and 88 percent from blood. A majority of the rockets or rocket fragments recovered also were found to be carrying sarin.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon called the use of chemical weapons in Syria a "war crime" and demanded the threat of sanctions to support a plan to destroy the arms. He said the August 21 attack is the "most significant use of chemical weapons" since former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered their use against the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988.

In Geneva, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria said it is investigating 14 alleged attacks with chemical weapons or chemical agents in Syria over the last two years. The report is expected to add momentum to a deal to eradicate Syria's chemical weapons program.

Earlier Monday, the U.S., France and Britain agreed on the need for a strong United Nations resolution that sets precise and binding deadlines for Syria to give up its chemical weapons.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the task is difficult and complex, but he stressed the need to maintain pressure on Assad's government.

“It is the Assad regime that has stockpiled these weapons and that has used them repeatedly against the Syrian people, so the pressure is on them to comply with this agreement in full. The world must be prepared to hold them to account if they don’t, and our three countries are certainly determined to do so,” said Hague.

Hague spoke alongside French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after they met in Paris. The talks came days after the U.S. and Russia announced a plan that calls on Syria to detail its chemical weapons stockpile. The Syrian government has promised to comply.

Kerry said anything less than full compliance by the Syrian government with a U.N. resolution will not be accepted. He also expressed the need to find a lasting solution beyond taking chemical weapons away from Assad's forces.

"We understand that removing the chemical weapons still leaves him with artillery and airplanes and he uses them indiscriminately against his people, and we are going to do everything in our power to continue to work towards the political resolution that is so critical to ending that violence,” said Kerry.

Earlier efforts to address the Syrian crisis at the U.N. Security Council have failed, with Russia and China using their veto power to block any outside intervention.

  • This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network shows anti-Syrian regime protesters hold a poster depicting U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration in Kafr Nabil, Idlib province, Sept. 20, 2013.
  • Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • Debris is seen on the ground after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • An injured man walks along a street after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad shows a Syrian military tank on fire during clashes with Free Syrian army fighters in Joubar, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 18, 2013.
  • A member of the Shohadaa Badr Brigade, which operates under the Free Syrian Army, stands in shooting position behind sandbags in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, September 17, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters walk through rubble inside the old city of Aleppo, Sept. 16, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he stands on rubble of damaged buildings in al-Aseela neighborhood near Aleppo's historic citadel, Sept. 13, 2013.
  • In this citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen, a Syrian protester chants slogans during a demonstration in Arbeen, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 13, 2013.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Virginia Nancarvis from:
September 17, 2013 10:44 PM
So from those posting and complaining..where is your country and will they step up?...France, Iran, Vietnam, Somalia.
Will they contribute money, will they offer their children to sacrifice for Syria's freedom from genocide...or Iran's freedom from Hussein, Egypt's freedom from Mubarack, Libya's freedom from Gaddafi? The U.S. for all its mistakes never once occupied the countries they fought. They could have. They could have made sure the government was staffed by Americans and forced our form of government upon them. They could have made them our territories and (perhaps) eventually our states Then we would deserve the accusation of imperialism.
Instead we gave loads of money so they could rebuild..Japan and Germany and Russia after WWII. Our efforts and funds have helped to keep peace between Egypt and Israel. We sent our children to fight in Desert Storm to help Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Joined by a coalition force from France, Egypt, British and Syria...note no citizens from Kuwait or Saudi Arabia fought. We lost 148 U.S. troops and close to 500 injured.

by: Virginia Nancarvis from:
September 17, 2013 8:45 PM
The armchair generals are out in full force. This will be a big accomplishment and will take all free loving nations to step up. Russia has depleted 75% of its chemical weapons and thanks to the U.S. and our generosity of $1 billion have now built another much needed facility to destroy its chemical weapons. This is a complex and expensive process. The U.S. has depleted 90% of its chemical weapons and a New Salt treaty was signed between the U.S and Russia. Our Senate approved it with a sixty majority vote required by our Constitution.
Whatever the U.S. did in the past, we now have a leader, President Obama, committed to depleting our world of weapons of mass destruction.

by: EG from: United States
September 17, 2013 3:25 PM
So quick to say it's evidence that Assad's regime used the chem weapons. Lol!

Let's take a quick look at history shall we? In the 70s, when the Shah of Iran was ousted(one the United States put in place) The US government armed none other than Saddam with chemical weapon precursors as well as other arms to attack Iran. What did Saddam do? Used them on the Kurds. Did we care? Only when we needed an excuse to invade.

Screw the corrupt US Government. Easily, 3 decades of Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches should be charged with War Crimes, Crimes against humanity, and Treason.

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
September 17, 2013 3:45 AM
When Saddam Hussein of Iraq killed more than five thousand civilians with chemical weapon the entire world was quiet and calm. Now, Assad of Syria did the same thing; slaughtering his own people with chemical weapon. No one can understand now why Russians and Western are squabbling over this issue? . If the world is unable to STOP the suffering of women and children in Syria, then Western countries and Russian should stop complaining about something relatively unimportant.

by: maithe from: Paris, France
September 16, 2013 6:25 PM
And what about biological weapons???
Again not a word....Why?

by: Anonymous
September 16, 2013 5:15 PM
all attempts in the last 2,5 years to get the Security Council to use the International Criminal Court against Bashar al Assad for his crimes act have been blocked by Russia.

Why? Because Russia doesn't want the same thing to happen to Russia someday. Plus Putin allowed the use of gas to kill civilians in the Moscow theatre seige. The Russian gov killed 140 hostages, and 40 hostage takers(criminals)... Is that a good ratio??? Russia does use chemical weapons.

Russia has been providing assad the weapons he has used to commit the crimes. So if this goes before the Security Council Russia would be found guilty of aiding and promoting assad to commit these crimes with the use of Russian Weaponry.

It is for reasons like above Russia should have NO SAY at the Security Council in regards to the investigation into bashar al assad for crimes against the Syrian Nation.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
September 16, 2013 1:43 PM
Talks and more talks, and Syria continues to fight and kill its own people. The UN, US, EU and Britain can continue to filibuster until all of Syria is reduced to rubles, or until all the people are either dead or become refugees. The American, European and US peoples refused their governments to go rescue the suffering peoples of Syria and restore some peace to them after it has become clear and beyond every doubt that whoever gassed the people does not have the interest of Syria at heart. Most accusing fingers point at Assad while the Opposition is constituted of terrorists, the solution would have been to level the playing ground in Syria and hand it over to a democratic government. But those who have the means to do so say no, and today there is shooting at a naval base in Washington. Not to preempt anything, but it is likely that what the Americans are afraid would happen if they went to war in Syria, has really located them on their home soil. At the end of the day we will find out that terror is better fought offshore not onshore.

by: Nadia from: Iran
September 16, 2013 12:48 PM
Now, for the opponents of Assad, has provided a great excuse to attack Iran to take revenge for the blood spilled. And if Iran is involved in that, America will be forced to intervene.

by: van from: vietnam
September 16, 2013 9:55 AM
i think the US has lost, russia has won. because assad still in power. he will win the rebels. the americans are feeble. Putin has won and lead the world. what a shame! forget the US and Nato

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs