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With no end in sight to the bitter Syrian conflict Russian scientists claim to have evidence that rebel fighters have used chemical weapons.
The US, UK and France have suspected President Bashar al-Assad’s government of using the “game changing” tactics. But now Moscow claims the rebels used the nerve agent Sarin in Aleppo last March.
The Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said: “We all, of course, are going to follow things very carefully and we believe that there is no room for using chemical weapons in Syria or anywhere else and in fact if there was a use it should be investigated. That’s why we’re very upset that the March 19 incident was not investigated.”
The Russians say their scientific analysis indicates a deadly projectile that hit a suburb of Aleppo on March 19 contained the sarin and was most likely fired by rebels. Russia, alongside Iran, is Syria’s closest ally and chief arms supplier.
The incident at Khan al-Assal in the northern province of Aleppo killed more than two dozen people. Both the government and rebels have blamed each other for what they say was an attack involving chemical weapons.
Syrian state television recently broadcast a report showing barrels containing chemicals which it alleged were found at a farm used by rebel fighters.
Victims suffering from what appears to be sarin poisoning have been seen but responsibility has been disputed. Both sides deny using chemical weapons.
US and French doubt
The United States cast doubt on the Russian analysis. Along with France the US has called for full UN access to Syrian sites where chemical weapons use was suspected.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States had not seen any evidence to suggest anyone other than the Syrian government “had the ability to use chemical weapons, or has used chemical weapons.”
“If (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad is seriously interested in proving his assertion, and now the assertion that Russia is making, Assad should let the UN investigators in and Russia should use its relationship with Assad to press Assad to allow UN investigators in,” Carney said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to meet Ake Sellstrom, the Swedish scientist heading a UN team set up to investigate allegations of chemical weapon use in Syria, in New York this week.
So far, Sellstrom’s team has not traveled to Syria. Ban wants Sellstrom to have unfettered access to investigate all alleged chemical attacks while Assad’s government wants the UN experts to confine their investigation to the March 19 incident.