Russia says Syrian rebels made, used sarin nerve gas

AP, UNITED NATIONS

Thu, Jul 11, 2013 - Page 6

Russia’s UN ambassador on Tuesday said that Russian experts determined that Syrian rebels made sarin nerve gas and used it in a deadly chemical weapon attack outside Aleppo in March.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin blamed opposition fighters for the March 19 attack in the government-controlled Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal, which he said killed 26 people, including 16 military personnel, and injured 86 others.

The rebels have blamed the government for the attack. The US, Britain and France have said they have seen no evidence to indicate that the opposition has acquired or used chemical weapons.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “We have yet to see any evidence that backs up the assertion that anybody besides the Syrian government has had the ability to use chemical weapons or has used chemical weapons.”

Churkin told reporters after delivering an 80-page report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime asked Russia, its closest ally, to investigate the attack after a UN team of chemical weapons experts was unable to enter the country in a dispute over the probe’s scope.

Acting US Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said al-Assad should now allow UN chemical weapons experts into the country to conduct an investigation of the Khan al-Assal incident as well as other allegations of chemical weapons use by the US, UK and France.

The samples taken from the impact site of the gas-laden projectile were analyzed at a Russian laboratory certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Churkin said.

He said the analysis showed that the unguided Basha’ir-3 rocket that hit Khan al-Assal was not a military-standard chemical weapon.

Churkin said the results indicate it “was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin.” He said the samples indicated the sarin and the projectile were produced in makeshift “cottage industry” conditions and the projectile “is not a standard one for chemical use.”

The absence of chemical stabilizers, which are needed for long-term storage and later use, indicated its “possibly recent production,” Churkin said.