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.

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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

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