U.N. Inspectors Confirm Sarin Use in Syria Attacks

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 16 2013 12:39 PM

U.N. Inspectors Confirm Sarin Use in Syria Attacks, But Not Who Used It

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Syria's Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid Al-Muallem speaks during the 63rd annual United Nations General Assembly meeting September 27, 2008 at U.N. headquarters in New York City.

Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images

U.N. chemical weapons inspectors confirmed on Monday that chemical weapons were used in an attack on a Damascus suburb last month that killed hundreds of people.

In the report submitted to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the inspectors say "the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used,” the AP reports. "The conclusion is that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic ... against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale," said the first page of the report.

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The full report is expected to be released later on Monday.

The cover letter of the inspectors' report, the Wall Street Journal notes, does not state who used the sarin, the Syrian government or rebel groups. According to the Journal, “the inspectors are mandated to identify only if a chemical weapon was used, but not to assign blame. Both the government and opposition groups are known to possess sarin.”

There are mixed reports on how the confirmation of the use of sarin, but still unassigned responsibility for their use, will affect ongoing diplomatic efforts. “Responsibility for the attack has been at the heart of the debate about whether the U.S. military should punish the government of President Bashar al-Assad and degrade his capability to use chemical weapons,” the Journal reports.

Secretary of State John Kerry has been on a diplomatic mission in Geneva and Paris, and yesterday announced a deal between the U.S. and Russia that would either destroy, or put all of Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, by the middle of next year.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.