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U.N. inquiry confirms that Syrian rebels used chemical weapons – Reuters

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(Reuters) – U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.

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1“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added, speaking in Italian.

Del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney-general who also served as prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, gave no details as to when or where sarin may have been used.

The Geneva-based inquiry into war crimes and other human rights violations is separate from an investigation of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria instigated by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which has since stalled.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the rebels accuse each another of carrying out three chemical weapon attacks, one near Aleppo and another near Damascus, both in March, and another in Homs in December. The civil war began with anti-government protests in March 2011. The conflict has now claimed an estimated 70,000 lives and forced 1.2 million Syrian refugees to flee.

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Based on CIA and media reports, the United States has said it has “varying degrees of confidence” that sarin has been used by Syria’s government on its people. However, this is the first time an independent UN commission has confirmed the use of chemical weapons by any party in the Syrian civil war, confirming that Syrian rebels were guilty of the crime.

President Barack Obama last year declared that the use or deployment of chemical weapons by Assad would cross a “red line”.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/05/us-syria-crisis-un-idUSBRE94409Z20130505

A United Nations inquiry into human rights abuses in Syria has found evidence that rebel forces may have used chemical weapons, its lead investigator has revealed.

Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said that testimony gathered from casualties and medical staff indicated that the nerve agent sarin was used by rebel fighters.

“Our investigators have been in neighbouring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Ms Del Ponte said in an interview broadcast on Swiss-Italian television on Sunday.

“This was used on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added.

Ms Del Ponte said the inquiry has yet to see any direct evidence suggesting that government forces have used chemical weapon.

A UN source told The Independent that Ms Del Ponte’s investigation is broader than the one focusing purely on chemical weapons use, but that chemical weapons falls under its remit.

The source said that the commission gathered over 1000 testimonies from those in Syria via Skype, and from those who have fled Syria into neighbouring countries.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/uns-carla-del-ponte-says-there-is-evidence-rebels-may-have-used-sarin-in-syria-8604920.html

Evidence from Turkey

Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian Islamists – reports
May 30, 2013

Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front who were previously detained, Turkish media reports. The gas was reportedly going to be used in a bomb.

The sarin gas was found in the homes of suspected Syrian Islamists detained in the southern provinces of Adana and Mersia following a search by Turkish police on Wednesday, reports say. The gas was allegedly going to be used to carry out an attack in the southern Turkish city of Adana.

On Monday, Turkish special anti-terror forces arrested 12 suspected members of the Al-Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda affiliated group which has been dubbed “the most aggressive and successful arm” of the Syrian rebels. The group was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in December.

Police also reportedly found a cache of weapons, documents and digital data which will be reviewed by police.

Following the searches, five of those detained were released following medical examinations at the Forensic Medicine Institution Adana. Seven suspects remain in custody. Turkish authorities are yet to comment on the arrests.

Russia reacted strongly to the incident, calling for a thorough investigation into the detention of Syrian militants
in possession of sarin gas.

“We are extremely concerned with media reports. Russia believes that the use of any chemical weapons is absolutely
inadmissible,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday.

In March, the Syrian government invited the United Nations to investigate possible chemical weapons use in the Khan al-Assal area of rural Aleppo. Military experts and officials said a chemical agent, most likely sarin, was used in the attack which killed 26 people, including government forces.

Damascus claimed Al-Qaeda linked fighters were behind the attack, further alleging Turkey had a hand in the incident.

“The rocket came from a placed controlled by the terrorist and which is located close to the Turkish territory. One can assume that the weapon came from Turkey,” Zoabi said in an interview with Interfax news agency.

http://rt.com/news/sarin-gas-turkey-al-nusra-021/

Video report: Syrian rebels detained in Turkey with a cylinder of highly poisonous sarin gas found in their possession.

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Evidence from Iraq

Iraq captures suspected Al Qaeda cell that planned to make chemical weapons
Jun 2, 2013

Iraq has captured a suspected Al Qaeda cell that planned to produce chemical poisons such as mustard gas to attack Iraqi forces and to ship overseas for attacks on Europe and the United States, the Iraqi government said. Al Qaeda in Iraq is known to be operating in Syria in the name of Al Nusra Front (ANF) banned by the US as a terrorist group.

The announcement was made as investigators look into allegations over the use of sarin nerve gas in next-door Syria, where rebels and president Bashar al-Assad’s forces have blamed each other for using chemical weapons.

Five men were caught before they could manufacture any gas or chemical weapons in makeshift factories in Baghdad and another province, Mohammed Al-Askari, a defence ministry spokesman told reporters.

“They got some programs from Al Qaeda outside Iraq. They were working … to produce mustard gas … and other gas,” he said.

“There are some confessions about organised cells to smuggle them outside Iraq through a neighbouring country in order to target Europe, America and different capitals.”

iraq

Officials showed reporters three suspects dressed in yellow jumpsuits with their heads covered by masks.

They also displayed bottles of chemicals and other lab equipment as well as remote-controlled toy helicopters authorities said the men planned to use to disperse the gas.

Bolstered by the Sunni Muslim rebellion against Mr Assad in Syria, Al Qaeda in Iraq is regaining ground and since the start of the year has stepped up its campaign of attacks to stoke sectarian conflict in Iraq.

Western powers, including the United States and Britain, say there is growing evidence of chemical weapon use in the conflict in neighbouring Syria, where fighting has killed more than 80,000 people in two years.

During the height of the Iraq war, Al Qaeda in Iraq used chlorine gas in its explosives to poison areas where their bombs detonated.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-02/iraq-captures-suspected-chemical-weapons-team/4727750

Specimen reaction on Twitter to the USA’s allegations the Assad regime has used chemical weapons

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  • Instead of CIA, Saudis and their stooges which led US to an illegal war in Iraq, we trust independent investigation by the United Nations.

  • John McCain has denied that he knowingly posed in a photograph this week with Syrian rebels who kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims.
    The photograph, released by Mr McCain’s office, shows the US senator standing with a group of rebels during his highly-publicised trip to Syria this week.
    Two of the men in the image are Mohamed Nour and Abu Ibrahim, claimed Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star. The men are described as being part of a group who kidnapped 11 Shias last year.
    They were identified by one of the kidnap victims, Anwar Ibrahim, who along with one other hostage has since been freed, the Star said. Negotiations over the freedom of the other nine are still ongoing.
    “I recognised him (Nour) immediately. He was the photographer who was brought in to take our photos [during captivity]. He works with the kidnappers. He knows them very well,” Mr Ibrahim told the Star.
    The Star claimed it had independently confirmed the identity of Nour, who reportedly acted as the spokesman for the kidnappers. The Telegraph has not confirmed the men’s identities.

    Senator’s spokesman said that if the man in the photograph turned out to be Nour it would be “regrettable”: “If the individual photographed with Senator McCain is in fact Mohamed Nour, that is regrettable. But it would be ludicrous to suggest that the senator in any way condones the kidnapping of Lebanese Shia pilgrims or has any communication with those responsible. Senator McCain condemns such heinous actions in the strongest possible terms.”
    The controversy came one day after Mr McCain said that officials can tell the difference between rebels and extremists are in Syria.
    Speaking on CNN, the Arizona senator said that he is confident the United States can send weapons to fighters in Syria without the risk they will fall into the wrong hands.
    “We can identify who these people are. We can help the right people,” he said.
    Mr McCain, a Republican, is an outspoken advocate for US military aid to the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has angrily denounced Democratic President Barack Obama for shying away from deeper US involvement in the conflict, which has claimed 80,000 lives.
    Critics of some lawmakers’ push to arm the rebels have expressed concerns that weapons could end up in the hands of militants who might eventually end up using them against the United States or its allies.
    US public opinion is strongly against direct military involvement in Syria, but Mr McCain said no one, including Gen Idris and his commanders, wants American “boots on the ground”.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10089697/John-McCain-denies-he-knowingly-posed-with-with-rebel-kidnappers-in-Syria.html

  • Don’t repeat Iraq mistake in Syria, Russia warns America
    AFP | Jun 14, 2013, 08.25 PM IST
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    READ MORE Yury Ushakov|Vladimir Putin|US Intervention In Syria|US Aid To Syria Rebels|UN Security Council

    US President Barack Obama has authorized direct US military aid to Syrian rebels for the first time. A recent UN report said that more than 90,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war.
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    MOSCOW: Russia said on Friday that US data on the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons was “unconvincing”, and warned Washington against repeating the mistake it made when invading Iraq after falsely accusing Saddam Hussein of stocking weapons of mass destruction.

    The Kremlin’s top foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov also said the US decision to provide military aid to Syrian rebels would damage international efforts to end a conflict that has left tens of thousands dead.

    The Syrian war will take centre stage next week in Northern Ireland where global leaders — including Russian President Vladimir Putin — gather for a G8 summit.

    Ushakov said US officials had recently presented Russia with new information about the alleged use of chemical weapons against rebels by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

    “What was presented by the Americans does not look convincing to us,” he told reporters.

    “I would not want to make any parallels, I would not want to believe that this data can be similar to the situation with the vial that (US) secretary of state Colin Powell brandished at the famous security council meeting.”

    Ushakov was referring to a UN security council meeting in 2003 at which Powell held up a vial that he said could contain anthrax as he presented evidence of Iraq’s alleged arms programmes.

    Those weapons, cited by George W Bush’s administration as the main motive for launching the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, never surfaced after the fall of the Baghdad regime.

    The head of the Russian lower house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee went even further than Ushakov, bluntly accusing Washington of making up claims that Assad had used chemical weapons against the rebels.

    “Information about Assad’s use of chemical weapons has been fabricated in the same place as the lies about (Saddam) Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, Alexei Pushkov said on Twitter.

    “Why would Assad use sarin ‘in small amounts’ against the fighters? What is the sense?! In order to prompt outside intervention? It makes no sense,” he wrote.

    Ushakov said the chances of holding a Syrian peace conference that Russia and the United States proposed jointly in May would be hurt by Washington’s plans to provide military support for the opposition.

    “Of course, if the Americans truly decide and in reality provide more large-scale assistance to rebels, assistance to the opposition, it won’t make the preparation of the international conference easier,” said Ushakov.

    Asked if the US decision to start arming the rebels would prompt Russia to proceed with the delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the Damascus regime, Ushakov said: “We are not talking about this yet. We are not competing on Syria.”

    Putin has said that Russia has signed a contract for the S-300s’ delivery without making any shipments yet.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Dont-repeat-Iraq-mistake-in-Syria-Russia-warns-America/articleshow/20592382.cms

  • As the US wants to arm ‘nice Syrian rebels’ we must remind ourselves that weapons are not just guns. They are about money
    Hardware will end up in the hands of al-Qa’ida, says Robert Fisk

    Tosh! That’s the only sane reaction to the White House’s announcement that America the Brave is to arm the Syrian rebels.
    The US doesn’t plan to send weapons to the horrid rebels, mark you – not to the al-Qa’ida-inspired al-Nusra Front whose chaps film themselves eating Alawites for YouTube videos, barbecue the heads of captured Syrian troops and murder 14-year-old schoolboys for blasphemy. Only to the nice rebels, the Free Syrian Army deserters who are battling the forces of Assad darkness in the interests of freedom, liberty, women’s rights and democracy.

    Anyone who believes this knows nothing about war, killing, barbarity and, especially, greed. Because weapons are not just guns. They are currency. They are money. They are saleable commodities the moment you send them across any border. Their value in US dollars, pounds sterling, Syrian pounds or Qatari dinars is infinitely more important than their use in battle.

    The Western powers are dangerously close to flooding Syria with weapons and ammunition which will officially go to the nice rebels – but will quickly pass to the horrid rebels, who will sell some of them to al-Qa’ida, Iraqi insurgents, Syrian government troops, Malian militiamen, Taliban fighters and Pakistani hitmen. Guns are about money.

    It works like this. The nice rebels could be given anti-aircaft missiles (shoulder-fired variety preferred) to use against Assad’s helicopters and Migs. Thank you – “shukran” – the nice rebels will say. But once over the border, the horrid rebel Nusra chaps will make an offer the nice rebels can’t refuse: either many thousands of dollars or a threat to seize the munitions (head-chopping optional), or a mixture of both. For a hefty sum, the horrid rebels will then split the proceeds with their chaps in Iraq. Ask the Syrian government soldiers – as I have – and they’ll tell you that they too would prefer the weapons to go to the nice rebels, who always run away – because the horrid rebels of the Nusra always fight to the last man.

    In the Lebanese civil war, not a single gun I ever saw was actually donated to the men who carried them. The Phalangists used weapons they received from the Israelis, who got them from the Americans (or with American money, the same thing). The Palestinians used guns from Syria, which had in turn imported them from the Soviet Union. Hezbollah even have a few self-loading rifles which appear to have come long ago from the Lebanese Army, which received them as surplus from the British Ministry of Defence after our chaps left Northern Ireland following the Good Friday Agreement.

    Back in the Eighties, the US handed out missiles and other goodies to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the super-freedom fighters trying to kill lots of Russians in Afghanistan. But Mr Hekmatyar then became a super-terrorist and decided to kill lots of post-2001 American occupiers of his country – using the same weapons donated to him by those grand arms dealers Messrs Carter and Reagan Inc.

    In 1991, the Israelis took delivery of AGM-114C missiles from the Americans – manufactured for the US Marine Corps, who were supposed to fire them at Iraqi soldiers – and used one of them to blow up an ambulance full of Lebanese women and children in 1996.

    History lesson. The weapons used by both sides in the 1922-3 Irish civil war – and you can see them in museums – included Lee-Enfield .303 rifles, each bearing the imprint of a British crown on the butt. They had been made for the Brits to use against Germans in the First World War. Whoops…

    Robert Fisk
    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/as-the-us-wants-to-arm-nice-syrian-rebels-we-must-remind-ourselves-that-weapons-are-not-just-guns-they-are-about-money-8659784.html