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UNITED NATIONS, April 17. /TASS/. US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power has accused Friday the Syrian authorities of using chlorine against civilians in the city of Sarmin on March 16.
Following an account of Syrian doctors who presented evidence of chemical weapons use in the war-torn country, Power said at a press briefing the US thinks that the Syrian government forces were responsible for the attack.
The ambassador noted that other UN Security Council members may need more evidence. According to her, everything points to the fact that chlorine was used from helicopters of the Syrian government forces.
The use of chlorine is forbidden, as it is considered to be a weapon of mass destruction. In March, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on inadmissibility of using chlorine and other chemicals in Syria. The resolution "stresses that those individuals responsible for any use of chemicals as weapons, including chlorine or any other toxic chemical, must be held accountable." Since then, the Syrian opposition has sent several letters to the UN Security Council, claiming that government forces used chlorine and demanding to establish a no-fly zone over the northern part of the country.
In March, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Russia hopes that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will investigate alleged use of chlorine in Syria. Lukashevich reminded that the OPCW mission continues coordinating with Damascus on clarifying Syria’s compliance with the chemical weapons elimination program.
"Against this rather calm, reasonable and operational background, a number of member-countries of the OPCW Executive Council unfortunately made another demarche to official Damascus for its alleged non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention," the diplomat noted. "In particular, groundless accusations based on some questionable publications were voiced against pro-government forces in using chlorine against civilians, in this case in Syria’s Idlib province," he added.
"We hope that the OPCW mission on establishing instances of possible use of chlorine as a chemical weapon in Syria will check this information in its work, along with information provided by Damascus in December last year on possible involvement in crimes with the use of chlorine of extremist and terrorist organizations operating in Syria," Lukashevich added.
"The same member-countries of the OPCW Executive Committee, which make unrestrained attacks on Damascus, fully ignore and deliberately hush up emerging evidence that extremist organizations, first of all the Islamic State, use chlorine in terrorism purposes in Syria and Iraq," the diplomat stressed. "We again have to note double standards here," he added.
Three out of 12 chemical weapon production facilities have been eliminated in Syria, Ahmet Uzumcu, OPCW director general, told TASS on March 18. "There are 12 production facilities which need to be destroyed, three of them have already been destroyed," Uzumcu said. "The remaining nine will be destroyed in the coming months," he said, adding that the timeline would be clear later. Uzumcu said that 98% of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile had already been destroyed. "The overall progress is quite satisfactory," he added.