Syria urged the UN on Tuesday to send scientists to investigate its claim of a chemical attack by rebels in Aleppo, but said it does not trust accusations by the US, Britain and others that such weapons were used elsewhere in the country.
Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari also accused “armed terrorist groups” of spreading powder from plastic bags — which he described as “probably a kind of chemical material” — among crowds in the northern city of Saraqeb on Monday.
“Many people were affected by this heinous, irresponsible act and the wounded, as well as the victims, had manifested signs similar to those during the use of chemical weapons,” Ja’afari told a press conference at the UN in New York.
Opposition groups have accused the government of the attack.
Ja’afari alleged that the rebels had “prearranged” for the victims to be transported into neighboring Turkey so proof of a chemical attack could be gathered and blamed on the government.
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday said that there was evidence that chemical weapons had been used during Syria’s two-year conflict, but that it was not yet known how the chemical weapons were used, when they were used and who used them.
The US and Syria both believe a credible UN probe is the best way to establish chemical weapons use, but nearly six weeks after Syria asked for an inquiry, investigators have been unable to enter the country.
The Syrian government and the opposition blame each other for alleged chemical weapons attacks in Aleppo in March and in Homs in December last year.
“Let us now fulfill, achieve in a credible manner, impartial, independent manner, the investigation [in Aleppo],” Ja’afari said. “Then if the Syrian government, and the [UN] secretary-general and the Security Council members feel that these [other] allegations are also credible, the Syrian government might examine the possibility of asking for further investigation.”
Ja’afari said Syria and the UN have so far exchanged 17 letters on the issue of access for investigators.
The US and Britain said last week they had limited, but growing evidence that chemical weapons, possibly the nerve agent sarin, had been used during Syria’s civil war in which more than 70,000 people have been killed.
“We have a problem with trust with those who are providing these so-called allegations ... because they are involved in supporting the terrorist groups and the armed groups in Syria,” Ja’afari said.
The US and Britain said they have provided non-lethal support to armed opposition groups in Syria.
Ja’afari said Syria had not been given evidence of the Western claims of chemical attacks.
“The Syrian government believes that the only way for the investigation ... to check the truth of what happened is through going to Syria and conducting investigations on the ground ... and not touring capitals here and there,” Ja’afari said.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which works on UN inquiries, said assertions of chemical weapon use citing photographs, sporadic shelling and traces of toxins do not meet the standard of proof needed for UN investigators.