U.N. inspectors find 'convincing' evidence of chemical attack outside Damascus
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. weapons inspectors have found “clear and convincing evidence” that “rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used” in an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Damascus.
The U.N. report, which was presented Monday morning to the U.N. Security Council, marks the first time that an internationally recognized team with expertise in chemical weapons has officially confirmed the use of such weapons in Syria.
“The findings are beyond doubt and beyond the pale,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters after briefing the Security Council on the report. “This is a war crime ... and the worst use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century.” He called the results of the investigation “overwhelming and indisputable.”
The report does not directly blame either the Syrian government or the opposition for carrying out the attack. But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the underlying evidence presented by the inspectors — including the trajectory of sarin-filled rockets — “leaves no doubt” that the government was responsible.
“When you look at the facts, the quantities of toxic gas, the complexities of the ⅛chemical mixtures⅜ and the trajectory of the rocket⅜vectors, all that leaves absolutely no doubt as to the origin of the attack,” he told French radio station RTL. The report, he added, “confirms the position of those of us who have said the regime is guilty.”
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters outside the Security Council that while the inspectors had no mandate to assign blame, the “technical details of the U.N. report make it clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack.”
Power said one of the weapons used in the attack, a 122 mm rocket, has been used by government forces in previous attacks. She said the United States has no evidence of the rebels “manufacturing or using this style of rocket.”
The chief weapons inspector, Ake Sellstrom, told Russia's envoy in response to a question at the Security Council meeting that the quality of the sarin used in the attack was “higher than that of the sarin used by Saddam Hussein's program” in Iraq, Power said. “Sellstrom also stated that weapons obtained on the site of the scene of this monstrous crime were professionally made. He said that they bore none of the characteristics of improvised weapons.”