Friday, April 26, 2013

Syria Says Western-backed Rebels Have Used Chemical Weapons

US, UK claim Syria used chemical weapons against militants

Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:37PM GMT

The United States and Britain claim that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in its fight against foreign-backed militants in the country.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, told reporters on Thursday that Washington has evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale.

"Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin," Hagel said.

"We need all the facts. We need all the information," he said, adding, "What I've just given you is what our intelligence community has said they know. As I also said, they are still assessing, and they are still looking at what happened, who was responsible and the other specifics that we'll need."

The White House had previously described any use of chemical weapons in Syria as a "red line," which could trigger possible military action.

Former US President George W. Bush used faulty intelligence to justify invading Iraq in pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that turned out not to exist.

In a letter sent to lawmakers before Hagel's announcement, Miguel Rodriguez, White House director of the office of legislative affairs, said Washington needed to step cautiously dealing with the matter.

"Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experiences, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient -- only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making," the letter noted.

The British Foreign Office also announced on Thursday that it has "limited but persuasive" evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"This is extremely concerning. Use of chemical weapons is a war crime. We have briefed our allies, partners and the UN on this information and we are working actively to get more and better information,” said a spokesman.

On April 23, a senior Israeli military official also accused Syrian forces of having used the nerve agent sarin against militants several times.

Damascus has repeatedly said that it will not chemical weapons in an attempt to end the unrest in the country.

However, the US and its allies previously ignored reports that the Syrian militants used such weapons.

At least 25 people were killed and 86 others injured after foreign-sponsored militants fired missiles containing poisonous gas into the town of Khan al-Assal, southwest of Aleppo, on March 19. Women and children were among the victims.

On December 17, 2012, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari said in letters to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the foreign-backed militants could use chemical weapons against Syrians and try to shift the blame to the government.

Damascus is "genuinely worried" that Syria’s enemies could provide chemical weapons to armed groups "and then claim they had been used by the Syrian government," Ja’afari stated.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of Syrian army and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

Damascus says the West and its regional allies including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are supporting the militants.

No comments: