U.N. report lambasts Syria chemical attacks

U.N. report concludes chemical weapons have been used at least five times during the two and a half-year civil war

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U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday called for the sanctioning of those responsible for Syrian chemical weapons attacks documented in a newly-released report.

The U.N. report, released on Thursday, concluded that the banned weapons have been used at least five times during the two and a half-year civil war, before Damascus agreed to dismantle its arsenal.

“I deplore in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in Syria, which is an offense against the universal values of humankind,” Ban told the United Nations General Assembly, according to Agence France-Presse.

The report did not attribute blame for the attacks, as it was beyond the mandate given to the team by the U.N. Security Council.

“The international community has a moral and political responsibility to hold accountable those responsible to deter further incidents and ensure that chemical weapons can never reemerge as an instrument of warfare,” Ban was quoted as saying by AFP.

The U.N. chief added he was “encouraged” by progress made in dismantling Syria’s chemical arsenal.

“The international community continues to expect the Syrian Arab Republic will implement faithfully its obligations to complete the elimination by the first half of 2014.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed in September to give up his country’s chemicals weapons stockpile to avert a threat of U.S. missile strikes following a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of people outside the capital Damascus.

The deal which resulted in a landmark Security Council resolution stipulates that Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons have to be out of the country by a Dec. 31 deadline and destroyed by June 30, 2014.

Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, who led the U.N. investigation team that compiled the report, reiterated that the mandate did not allow him to point any fingers.

“These facts could be used by others who have the mandate ... I don't have information that could stand in court,” he was quoted as saying by AFP.

Attributing the attacks “requires more efforts and resources” such as those of forensic investigators, Sellstrom said.

Western and Arab governments, human rights groups and the Syrian opposition accuse the regime of carrying out the attacks, while Assad and his allies in Moscow and Tehran place blame on the rebels.

(With AFP)