September 18, 2013

Syria gives Russia chemical weapons evidence

Syria reportedly told Russian officials the material 'bears witness to the rebels participating in the chemical attack.'

By Bassem Mroue and Jim Heintz / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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In this Aug. 28, 2013, image provided by the United Media Office of Arbeen, members of the UN investigation team take samples from sand near a part of a missile that is likely to be one of the chemical rockets according to activists, in the Damascus countryside of Ain Terma, Syria.

AP

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Russia also has repeatedly claimed that a chemical weapons attack in Syria on March 19 was committed by the rebels.

The reports did not specify the nature of the new material turned over by Syria to Russia, which Ryabkov said would be closely analyzed.

"But considering that earlier we came to the corresponding conclusion about the incident of March 19, we are inclined to treat with great seriousness the material from the Syrian side about the involvement of the rebels in the chemical attack of Aug. 21," Ryabkov said, according to ITAR-Tass.

Also Wednesday, the chief U.N. chemical weapons inspector said his team will return to Syria "within weeks" to complete the investigation it had started before the Aug 21 gas attack and other alleged chemical weapons attacks in the country.

Ake Sellstrom told The Associated Press the team will evaluate "allegations of chemical weapons use from both sides, but perhaps mainly from the Syrian government's side."

He said he doesn't currently think there is a need for more investigations of the Aug. 21 attacks, but said "if we receive any additional information it will be included next time we report."

In London, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the recent American-Russian agreement on eliminating chemical weapons in Syria, saying he thinks the "credible threat" of military action was the real reason "why diplomacy got a chance."

He said that in order to ensure implementation of that agreement, it is crucial for the United Nations Security Council to "expeditiously adopt" a firm resolution to act as a framework for the process.

"In order to keep momentum in the diplomatic and political process the military option should still be on the table," he added.

The fighting in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people, according to activists and the U.N., and has forced 7 million to flee their homes. Five million Syrians have been displaced inside the country and more than 2 million have sought refuge in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, according to the U.N.

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