News / Middle East

US to Help Syrian Opposition Fight Chemical Weapons

President Barack Obama speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Sept. 16, 2013, in Washington.
President Barack Obama speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Sept. 16, 2013, in Washington.
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama has signed an executive order directing the government to provide some factions of the Syrian opposition with aid and training to deal with any future chemical weapons attacks.

The White House says the order, signed Monday, allows the government to train "selected" members of the opposition. It provides protective equipment and training to international aid organizations.

This directive came just hours after United Nations inspectors issued a report citing "clear and convincing evidence" that deadly sarin gas was used on a relatively large scale in a chemical attack near Damascus last month that Washington says killed 1,400 people.

The report did not speculate on who launched the August 21 attack on the rebel-held suburb of Ghouta. But President Obama and other Western leaders, citing witness accounts and other evidence, blame forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad for the attack -- a charge the Assad government denies.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the evidence gathered by U.N. inspectors "indisputably" and "overwhelmingly" confirms the use of poison gas.

Ban, speaking after a closed-door briefing to the U.N. Security Council, described the attack as a war crime, and said 85 percent of blood samples from the victims showed evidence of sarin gas. He also said recovered fragments from surface-to-surface delivery rockets showed sarin use "beyond doubt and beyond the pale."

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

A White House spokesman noted that only the Syrian army has surface-to-surface rockets.

Earlier Monday, the United States, 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.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Paris, 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," he said.

Kerry spoke alongside British counterpart William Hague and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, after talks aimed at solidifying Western resolve to force the Assad government to eliminate its chemical stockpile.

You May Like

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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