British scientists may have proof of chemical weapons in Syria - reports
Image of the destruction in the Salaheddine district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 12, 2013. (AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF)
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British military scientists have found forensic evidence that chemical weapons have been used in the conflict in Syria, the Times newspaper reported on Saturday.
A soil sample thought to have been taken from an area close to Damascus and smuggled back to Britain has provided proof that “some kind of chemical weapon” had been fired, it quoted defense sources as saying.
The tests were carried out at the Ministry of Defense’s chemical and biological research establishment at Porton Down, it added in the front-page story.
Diplomats at the United Nations said on Thursday that Western Nations have “hard evidence” that chemical weapons have been used at least once in the Syrian war, without giving details.
The British teams were unable to discern whether the weapons had not been fired by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime or by the rebels fighting him, nor could they say if there had been widespread use, The Times said.
It cited a source, whose identity was not revealed, as saying: “There have been some reports that it was just a strong riot-control agent but this is not the case -- it’s something else, although it can’t definitively be said to be sarin nerve agent.”
The Ministry of Defense had no comment when contacted by the media, although the Foreign Office said it was deeply concerned about the possible use of chemical weapons.
“We are deeply concerned about multiple reports alleging the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” a spokesman said.
“We have shared our concerns with the UN secretary general and fully support his decision to investigate.”
“The use of chemical weapons would be a horrific crime. Those who order the use of chemical weapons, and those who participate in their use, will be brought to account.”
This comes as Syria’s foreign ministry said it will not accept a U.N. chemical weapons team, as proposed by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, to probe the alleged use of chemical weapons in the country.
Ban has “suggested a supplementary mission allowing the mission to deploy throughout Syrian territory, which is contrary to the demand Syria made to the United Nations,” a ministry official said, cited by state news agency SANA.
He said “Syria cannot accept such maneuvers on the part of the U.N. secretariat general, bearing in mind the negative role that it played in Iraq and which cleared the way to the American invasion” of that country in 2003.
The foreign ministry “regretted” that Ban had “given in to pressure from states known for their support of the bloodshed” in Syria, referring to supporters of the two-year-old revolt in the country.
A U.N. inspection team is in Cyprus and ready to deploy to nearby Syria to probe the alleged use of chemical weapons in the conflict there, Ban said on Monday.
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