Syrian opposition skeptical about chemical agreement

BEIRUT – Syria’s main opposition group in exile was “deeply skeptical” Friday about Damascus signing an international treaty banning the production and use of chemical weapons, saying a U.N. resolution was needed to enforce compliance.

Syrian President Bashar Assad told Russian TV that his government would start submitting data on its chemical weapons stockpile a month after signing the convention.

His ambassador to the United Nations said that as of Thursday, Syria had become a full member of the treaty, which requires destruction of all chemical weapons.

“This gesture comes as too little, too late to save civilians from the regime’s murderous intent,” said the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Council. “It is clearly an attempt to evade international action as well as accountability in front of the Syrian people,” it said.

U.N. inspectors’ report being filed this weekend

UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday he believes there will be “an overwhelming report” from U.N. inspectors that chemical weapons were used in an attack in Syria on Aug. 21, but he did not say who was responsible.

The Syrian government and rebels blame each other for the attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. The Obama administration, which says 1,429 people were killed, has said it has evidence that clearly indicates the Syrian government was behind the attack. But Russia, a key ally of Syria, has said it is not convinced by the U.S. evidence.

The U.N. inspectors have a mandate to determine whether chemical weapons were used, not to establish who was responsible. But two U.N. diplomats said the report could point to the perpetrators, saying that the inspectors collected many samples from the attack and also interviewed doctors and witnesses.

Ban spoke shortly before the chief chemical weapons inspector, Ake Sellstrom, said he will deliver his report to the secretary-general in New York this weekend.

Ban said President Bashar Assad’s regime “has committed many crimes against humanity,” though he did not refer specifically to chemical weapons attacks..

Ryan calls Obama’s strategy an ‘embarrassing spectacle’

BROOKFIELD, Wis. – U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan tore into President Obama’s Syria strategy Friday, calling it an “embarrassing spectacle” that has hurt the country’s credibility and is unlikely to have a peaceful outcome.

Ryan, who Wednesday issued a statement opposing Obama’s approach, expanded on his position in response to a question following his speech to a business group in Brookfield.

“I’ve been kind of biting my tongue all week, out of deference to the office of the president,” Ryan said, before unleashing on Obama’s plan for limited military strikes.

“I do not support this action,” Ryan told a sold-out audience at the annual meeting of the Waukesha County Business Alliance. “I do not think the president has presented anything close to a coherent strategy. … I just think it’s been so poorly handled and it has damaged our credibility as a country.”

Ryan did not offer his own plan for dealing with Syria.

– From news service reports