September 18, 2013

Rocket trajectory links Syrian military to chemical attack

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

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A volunteer adjusts a gas mask and protective suit on a student during a classroom session on how to respond to a chemical weapons attack in Aleppo, Syria. The drills came amid continued diplomatic wrangling over how to collect Syria's arsenal of chemical and biological agents.

The Associated Press via AP Video

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U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said the U.N. is checking with Russia's U.N. Mission to find out exactly what Ryabkov said but "on the face of it, these reported remarks are an attempt to call into question the secretary-general's investigation team ... and the credibility of its thoroughly objective report." He stressed that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "has the fullest confidence in the professionalism of his team and their work and findings."

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 attack and other alleged uses of chemical weapons in the country.

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."

The first step in getting rid of Syria's chemical weapons is for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to endorse the agreement reached by the U.S. and Russia to put its stockpile and precursors under international control for later destruction. A senior U.N. diplomat said a U.S.-Russia draft spelling out details of how this will be done is expected to be circulated to members of the OPCW's executive board later Wednesday. The board is scheduled to meet Friday to make a decision.

Assad said his government would abide by the agreement reached with U.S. and Russian officials to give up his chemical weapons. He says he has received estimates that destroying the stockpiles would cost $1 billion and would take roughly a year.

"We are committed to the full requirement of this agreement," Assad said.

"It's not about will," Assad added. "It's about technique."

Britain's U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said the main purpose of a new U.N. resolution currently under discussion "is to make the framework agreement reached between the United States and Russia in Geneva, and the decision that will be taken by the OPCW Executive Council, legally binding in a Security Council resolution that is verifiable and enforceable."

The five permanent members of the Security Council were meeting again Wednesday to try to agree on the text.

Assad on Wednesday received a U.S. delegation of former members of Congress and anti-war activists, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

In the contested northern city of Aleppo, a group of volunteers learned how to deal with chemical weapons attacks in a drill inside a school. Their teacher, Mohammad Zayed, a 21-year-old former chemistry student, helped them put on gas masks and protective suits.

He also described the effects of various chemical weapons and how to help people with the limited resources available.

Three gas masks and 24 protective suits were given to them after rebels gained control of a military base belonging to forces loyal to Assad. The volunteers are distributing leaflets to residents on how to react to an attack.

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