Saturday, March 8, 2014
UNITED NATIONS - U.N. inspectors have collected a "wealth" of evidence on the use of nerve agents that points to Syrian President Bashar Assad using chemical weapons against his own people, according to a senior Western official.
The inspection team, which is expected Monday to present U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon with a highly anticipated report on a suspected Aug. 21 nerve agent attack in the suburbs of Damascus, will not directly accuse the Syrian regime of gassing its own people, according to three U.N.-based diplomats familiar with the investigation.
But it will provide a strong circumstantial case -- based on an examination of spent rocket casings, ammunition, and laboratory tests of soil, blood, and urine samples -- that points strongly in the direction of Syrian government culpability.
"I know they have gotten very rich samples -- biomedical and environmental -- and they have interviewed victims, doctors and nurses," the Western official said. "It seems they are very happy with the wealth of evidence they got."
The U.N. team, which is led by the Swedish scientist Ake Sellstr?traveled to Damascus last month to begin an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons. During that trip, according to the United States and other Western powers, Syrian forces launched a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people in the al Ghouta suburb of Damascus.
Syria and Russia have denied that the government in Damascus carried out the attack, saying it was the work of Syrian rebels seeking to persuade the West to intervene militarily on their behalf. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Assad denied his government used chemical weapons -- and compared the U.S. case against Syria to former Secretary of State Colin Powell's flawed presentation against Iraq.