UN confirms Syria chemical weapons use: 'This is a war crime'


People walk in a narrow alley past a poster featuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the capital Damascus on September 16, 2013.



A UN investigation into an Aug. 21 attack in Syria has confirmed that chemical weapons were used on a fairly large scale.

In remarks released Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that there is no doubt chemical weapons were deployed in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah and Zamalka, all in the Ghouta area of Damascus.

"The results are overwhelming and indisputable. The facts speak for themselves," he said.

"The United Nations Mission has now confirmed, unequivocally and objectively, that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. This is a war crime and a grave violation of the 1925 Protocol and other rules of customary international law," he added.

However, the UN has declined to identify who is responsible for using the weapons.

"It is for others to decide," Ban said during a Monday press conference.

The White House didn't hesitate to assign blame.

"The information provided in that report that the sarin agent was delivered on surface to surface rockets that only the Assad regime has, makes clear the responsibility," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The UN review of the Aug. 21 attacks by chemical weapons experts indicated that sarin gas was used on a "relatively large scale."

The full text of the UN report is here.

Ban agreed with the terms of the deal the US and Russia reached over the weekend that the UN Security Council should take action if Syria fails to comply with the terms proposed recently for surrendering their chemical arsenal.

"I agree there should be consequences for non-compliance. Any use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, is a crime," he said.

France, the UK and the US are pushing for a resolution at the United Nations Security Council that would hold Syria accountable for turning over its chemical arms.

French President Francois Hollande called the US-Russia deal on disarmament reached over the weekend an "important step" toward solving the Syrian conflict, but said "the military option must remain" to put pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking in a television address on Monday, Hollande said a UN Security Council vote on a new resolution could be decided by the end of the week, according to the BBC.

"It is necessary to include the threat of sanctions if the agreement and the aims of the Security Council resolution aren't carried out," Hollande said.

Hollande and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday to work on a new UN Security Council resolution.

"We want to obtain a strong resolution from the UN Security Council, a resolution that will support the plan for chemical disarmament with all the authority of the Council, a resolution that includes serious consequences if the plan is not implemented and, finally, a resolution that will also reaffirm that those responsible for the massacre on 21 August be held accountable," Fabius said after the meeting Monday.

Kerry said the resolution must be "forceful, accountable, transparent and timely."

Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, Kerry insisted that "the threat of force is real" for Syria if it doesn't abide by the agreement worked out by the United States and Russia.

"We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs," Kerry said.

The deal, announced by Kerry and Lavrov on Saturday, would see Syria declaring its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week. The timeline set out by the deal would see all of Assad's chemical weapons removed or destroyed by mid-2014.

The UN announced Monday that a human rights commission investigating war crimes in the country will try to find who was responsible for 14 suspected chemical weapon attacks.

This commission is separate from the UN team that investigated whether chemical weapons were used in Syria.