WASHINGTON, September 16 (RIA Novosti) – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned as a “war crime” the deadly attack carried out on a Damascus suburb last month after a UN inspectors’ report released Monday said there was “clear and convincing evidence” that chemical weapons were used.
“The report makes chilling reading… the results are overwhelming and indisputable,” Ban told a news conference after meeting with the UN Security Council about the report.
“The findings are beyond doubt and beyond the pale: this is a war,” Ban said.
A team of UN inspectors who analyzed environmental, chemical and medical samples, and interviewed dozens of survivors of the attack, as well as first responders and medical personnel who rushed to help them, concluded in the report that chemical weapons were used “against civilians, including many children, on a relatively large scale” in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21.
According to the report, 85 percent of blood samples taken from 34 survivors of the attack tested positive for the deadly nerve toxin, Sarin; a majority of environmental samples confirmed the use of the deadly nerve gas, and rockets or fragments of rockets that were recovered by the UN team at the scene of the attack were determined to have carried Sarin.
The UN inspectors were mandated only to report on whether chemical weapons were used and if so, which ones, not to determine who was responsible for the attack, which the United States says killed more than 1,400 people.
Without apportioning blame, Ban warned that “those perpetrators who have used chemical weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction will be brought to justice.”
UN envoys from the United States, France and Britain said the report’s technical details pin the blame on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said details contained in the report “make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack.”
Citing lead UN investigator, Ake Sellstrom of Sweden, who met with Security Council members Monday to discuss the report, Power said “the weapons obtained at the scene of this monstrous crime were professionally made. He said they bore none of the characteristics of improvised weapons.”
British UN envoy Mark Lyall Grant noted that the rocket samples analyzed by the UN experts had a payload of 350 liters (370 quarts), or 35 times the amount of Sarin gas used in the Tokyo subway attack in 1995, adding, "This is no cottage industry use of chemical weapons.”
And France’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Alexis Lamek, said although the report did not specify “who carried out this crime, it provides an impressive amount of information” that points to the culpability of the regime in Damascus.
“We have no doubt that anyone who reads this report will reach the same conclusion as we already have, namely that this attack was carried out by the regime in Damascus, and the regime in Damascus must be held accountable for this war crime, this crime against humanity,” he said.
The Assad regime has claimed the attack was the work of rebels hoping to incite foreign intervention, a stance backed by Moscow.
The next step is for the UN Security Council to “shoulder its responsibility” and endorse in a “binding and enforceable resolution” a framework agreement struck by the United States and Russia last week in Geneva, which calls on Syria to hand over all of its chemical weapons to the international community for destruction by mid-2014, Ban and the envoys said.