Syrian samples to reveal the extent of chemical weapons use

A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has spoken with the head of the chemical weapons team. Source: Thomas Hawk via Flickr

A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has spoken with the head of the chemical weapons team. Source: Thomas Hawk via Flickr

JONATHAN NOONE

Samples allegedly containing evidence of chemical weapons-use in Syria will be transferred to laboratories today.

A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Mr Ban had just spoken with Dr Ake Sellstrom, the head of the chemical weapons team.

“Dr Sellstrom, who has just returned to The Hague with the rest of his expert team, after work in Syria from 19 to 31 August, briefed the Secretary-General on the next stages of the investigation process,” the spokesperson said.

“The whole process will be done strictly adhering to the highest established standards of verification recognised by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”

The investigation follows the release of video footage on social media showing civilians experiencing the effects of possible chemical weapons attacks on August 21.

The UN announcement comes just a day after United States Secretary of State John Kerry declared the US held President Bashar al-Assad responsible for chemical weapons attacks his own people.

“Read for yourselves the verdict reached by our intelligence community about the chemical weapons attack the Assad regime inflicted on the opposition and on opposition-controlled or contested neighbourhoods in the Damascus suburbs on the early morning of August 21st,” Mr Kerry said.

UN Security Council permanent members Russia and China have previously vetoed any external intervention in Syria, which would deem future intervention illegal through international law.

Despite this and Britain’s parliament voting against their military involvement last week, the US administration still intends to intervene in Syria.

“We will continue talking to Congress, talking to our allies, and most importantly, talking to the American people,” Mr Kerry said.

Griffith University’s Dr Halim Rane believes the US may seek to use the past military intervention in the former Yugoslavian State in 1991 as a precedent.

“As in 1991, the US may justify its attack on Syria under the humanitarian case to protect the people of Syria,” Dr Rane said.

“Further, this would send a message to Assad, and others in the future, that chemical weapons can not be used.”

Yet Dr Rane believes military intervention is a “primitive case of humanitarian intervention” and holds concerns for Syria’s civilian population if military intervention goes ahead.

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