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Russian FM says alleged chemical attack outside Damascus was plotted

September 14, 2013, 21:21 UTC+3

It stressed the need for the investigators to take into account all circumstances that had preceded the incident

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Photo  EPA/STR


MOSCOW, September 14 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the alleged chemical attack in one of the suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus on August 21 had been plotted.

“There is a wide variety of testimony by independent experts in this respect, including by a nun from the nearest convent and other witnesses. Western correspondents were there. As you know, European and U.S. experts, including 12 former Pentagon and CIA officials, sent an open letter to [U.S. President Barack] Obama, explaining how all this had been fabricated,” Lavrov told Sergei Brilev’s Vesti v Subbotu (News on Saturday) television programme on September 14.

Lavrov recalled that Russian experts had provided evidence proving that rebels had used chemical weapons. “Then there was an episode on March 19, which should have been investigated by U.N experts but they were putting it off by coming up with unrealistic demands at that time, avoiding concrete inquiries and trying to do more than they could,” he said.

The minister is convinced that by the time the presidents of Russia and the United States met at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg in early September “much had already been done by bad guys who had used toxic agents one way or another. We believe they did it mainly to provoke a military strike as punishment for the regime and shifted all responsibility for the use of chemical weapons on the regime, even though there was no logic to it.”

Moscow earlier this month welcomed a possible return of the U.N. Chemical weapons experts to Syria to continue the investigation of alleged chemical attacks in the eastern suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus on August 21.

“We welcome U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement that the U.N. chemical weapons experts intend to return to Syria shortly to continue its work there,” the Foreign Ministry said.

At the same time, the ministry regretted the fact that “the international investigation of the use of combat toxic agents in the suburb of Aleppo on March 19 essentially has not started yet.” As a result of the attack, 26 civilians and Syrian army personnel were killed and 86 persons injured.

It said the report prepared by Russian exerts and handed over to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would help determine all the circumstances of this incident.

“The Russian report is very specific. The ammunition used was not standard Syrian army ammunition and was homemade similarly to unguided projectiles made in the north of Syria by the so-called Bashair al-Nasr brigade,” the ministry said.

In addition, “hexogen was used to detonate the shell but it is not used in standard chemical ammunition. The samples of the ammunition and soil contain the nerve gas sarin, which was not commercially made, and diisopropylfluorophosphate, which was used by Western countries in chemical weapons during World War II,” the ministry said.

It stressed the need for the investigators to take into account all circumstances that had preceded the incident. “Attempts have been made to ignore information provided by official Damascus about Syrian army personnel’s toxic poisoning on August 22, 24 and 25 when they found materials, equipment and tanks with traces of sarin in one of the suburbs of Damascus. As we all know, the condition of the affected soldiers was assessed by members of the U.N. expert group. Obviously, any objective investigation of the August 21 incident will be impossible unless these circumstances are taken into account,” the ministry said.

It noted massive leaks of various materials to mass media aimed at shifting all responsibility for the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria to official Damascus even before the U.N. experts present their findings. “This is to prepare the ground for the use of force against Syria,” the ministry warned.

On August 14, Syria agreed to receive U.N. inspectors for a probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the country. By agreement with the Syrian government they will investigate three such instances at the same time.

On August 28, U.N. experts visited Zamalka, an eastern suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus, where chemical weapons were allegedly used.

On the first day of their work on August 26, the U.N. inspectors took samples at the site of an alleged chemical attack and talked with survivor and witnesses.

The Team, led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, probed the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Government at Khan al-Asal, as well as two other allegations reported by Member States. The team was working in cooperation with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon (OPCW) and the U.N. World Health Organisation (WHO).

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that since the attacks in the Ghouta area of Damascus, the United Nations Mission had been working urgently to establish the facts regarding the nature and extent of any use of chemical weapons.

He said the Mission had worked around the clock following its return from Syria to prepare the materials it gathered for analysis.

“As soon as the Mission has arrived at findings on the Ghouta incident, I will promptly report the results to Member States and to the Security Council,” Ban said, adding that as soon as it can, the Mission would return to Syria to complete its investigation and to prepare its final report.

The chemical weapons experts said they would present their findings to Ban on my, September 16.

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