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Russian FM says alleged chemical attack outside Damascus was plotted

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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