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Britain and France believe the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons

January 30, 2014 at 2:57 pm

British and French officials have told the UN Secretary-General they have reliable evidence the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in several cities in Syria.

The Washington Post reported that British and French ambassadors told Ban Ki-moon in a letter on March 25 that soil samples and interviews with witnesses and opposition figures supported their beliefs that the government used chemical shells that caused injuries and deaths.

Diplomats and officials who spoke to the American newspaper preferred to speak on the condition of anonymity because the information has not yet been made public.

The newspaper said that in March Syria, Britain and France asked Ban Ki-moon to investigate an alleged chemical weapons attack by rebels on Khan al-Assal village in northern Aleppo province. The rebels blamed regime forces for the attack.

The diplomats and officials told The Washington Post that Syrian soldiers were reportedly killed and injured in the Khan al-Assal incident, but the British and French believe this was the result of a misfired Syrian government shell.

The Secretary General appointed a team of chemical weapons experts to investigate the allegations in Khan al-Assal and in Homs, where there was the most evidence. But the Syrian government has so far refused to allow the experts to go anywhere but Khan al-Assal.

Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday, according to the newspaper, that the team of experts would proceed with “its fact-finding activities.” He said additional information has been requested from the three governments.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament last week that the government “is increasingly concerned that there is evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

The American newspaper reported him as saying: “We welcome the UN Secretary-General’s announcement of an investigation into the allegations and again call on the Syrian regime to cooperate fully and allow the investigation unfettered access to all areas.”

“They should take heed that the world is watching and those who order the use of chemical weapons or participate in their use must be held to account.”

President Barack Obama had earlier said that Assad would cross a red line if he were to use his suspected stockpile of chemical weapons.