Syrian government HAS used sarin gas against its own people during civil war says U.S. Defence Secretary
- No 10 said Britain had obtained 'limited but persuasive information'
- U.S. Intelligence concludes use of gas 'with varying degrees of confidence'
- Calls for the Assad regime to co-operate with international inspectors
- President Obama has said use of such weapons would be a 'game-changer'
- Follows four reports of chemical weapons being used in recent months
- Britain obtained soil samples from inside Syria which have been tested
- UK Prime Minister says it is unlikely that troops will be sent to Syria
- Syrian official has today denied the claims calling them 'lies'
By Daily Mail Reporter, David Williams and Steve Nolan
PUBLISHED: 12:00 EST, 25 April 2013 | UPDATED: 08:17 EST, 26 April 2013
Britain and the US yesterday effectively accused Syrian government forces of using chemical weapons in the country’s brutal civil war.
If the claims are correct it could mean Syria has crossed President Barack Obama’s ‘red line’, which could lead to greater Western military involvement in the two-year war.
Intelligence gleaned by both the UK and US indicated there is evidence that the increasingly beleaguered regime of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad had used the weapons and in particular the devastating nerve agent sarin, officials said.
But British Prime Minister David Cameron said this morning that it is unlikely that the new intelligence will lead to UK troops being sent into Syria to directly intervene.
Syrian officials have this afternoon dismissed the claims as 'lies'.
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Injured: A video posted on Facebook and YouTube appears to show victims of a Syrian regime assault on Aleppo foaming at the mouth suggesting the use of sarin gas
Graphic: The video was posted on the Facebook page of British-trained doctor Niazi Habash, who treated some of the Aleppo victims
Horrific: Experts believe that the injuries shown in the video are consistent with those sustained after a chemical weapon attack
Devastating: 15 people were injured and three people killed in the assault on the Sheikh Massoud area on April 13
The latest evidence comes just days after a video showing victims of an alleged Syrian assault on Aleppo foaming at the mouth and showing other symptoms of exposure to chemical weapons was posted on Facebook by a doctor.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘We have limited but persuasive information from various sources showing chemical weapon use in Syria, including sarin. This is extremely concerning.
'Use of chemical weapons is a war crime. We have briefed our allies, partners and the UN on this information and we are working actively to get more and better information.
'(Bashar) Assad must cooperate with the international community and prove that his regime has not committed this horrific crime, allowing unrestricted access for the UN and OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) to investigate on the ground in Syria.'
The British claims came minutes after
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said US intelligence had concluded
with ‘some degree of varying confidence’ that Assad’s forces have used
chemical weapons on a ‘small scale’.
US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Assad’s forces had ‘launched’ two chemical attacks. No information was made public on what quantity of chemical weapons might have been used, or when or what casualties might have resulted.
White House sources stressed that more information was needed and the current assessments were not enough.
But two Syrian officials have denied the government has used chemical weapons against rebel forces, saying the regime had no need for them.
Syrian official Sharif Shehadeh called the U.S. claims 'lies' and likened them to false accusations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction ahead of the U.S. invasion of that country.
Victim: A woman is treated for what appears to be breathing difficulties at a clinic in the north of Aleppo
Claims: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said intelligence sources had confirmed the use of Sarin gas by the Syrian government during a press conference in Abu Dhabi today
Blast: A shell explodes in the Syrian city of Daraya today. The strategically placed town near Damascus has reportedly been captured by government forces after five weeks of fighting
Washington called for a UN investigation but former presidential candidate John McCain said the West should intervene.
‘What I worry about is that now...
that Bashar Assad has crossed the red line that the president has
established and we don’t take action,’ he said. ‘Iranians, Hezbollah,
others in the region will be paying close attention.’
The CIA believes Syria has had a chemical weapons programme for years. There is grave concern in the UK and US that its stockpile of chemical weapons – approximately 1,000 tons, stored in 50 towns – could fall into the hands of Al Qaeda to be turned on Western targets.
The Foreign Office called on Assad to cooperate with international bodies to prove he had not sanctioned their use.
In an escalation of the war in
Afghanistan, the RAF has carried out unmanned drone missions against the
Taliban from British soil for the first time.
The Reaper drones are controlled from
RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. The Ministry of Defence said they had
supported ground troops with ‘armed intelligence and surveillance
Warning: U.S. President Barack Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a 'game changer' while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said
the West will pay a price 'in the heart' of Europe and the U.S. for
their alleged backing Islamic fundamentalists
No information was made public on what quantity of chemical weapons might have been used, or when or what casualties might have resulted.
Barack Obama has said the use of chemical weapons would be a
'game-changer' in the U.S. position on intervening in the Syrian civil
war, and the letter to Congress reiterates that the use or transfer of
chemical weapons in Syria is a 'red line for the United States.'
However, the letter also hints that a broad U.S. response is not imminent.
White House legislative director Miguel Rodriguez, who signed the letter, wrote that 'because the president takes this issue so seriously, we have an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria.'
The letters went to Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich.
The assessment, Rodriguez says, is based in part on 'physiological samples.'
He also said the U.S. believes that the use of chemical weapons 'originated with the Assad regime.' That is consistent with the Obama administration's assertion that the Syrian rebels do not have access to the country's stockpiles.
In Washington, McCain quoted from the letter the White House sent to several senators who had pressed the administration about Syria's possible use of chemical weapons.
'We just received a letter from the president in response to our question about whether Assad had used chemical weapons,' McCain told reporters following a closed briefing with Secretary of State John Kerry on Syria and North Korea.
Destruction: Parts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo have been destroyed during the bitter civil war. The aftermath of a separate assault by the Syrian regime on the city is pictured
British Prime Minister David Cameron today spoke out against the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria agreeing with Barack Obama's assessment that the issue was a 'red line' but playing down talk that it could lead to British troops on the ground in the country.
He told BBC Breakfast: 'It is very
disturbing what we are seeing. It's limited evidence but there's growing
evidence that we have seen too of the use of chemical weapons, probably
by the regime.
'It is extremely serious, this is a war crime, and we should take it very seriously.
Mr Cameron said they were trying not
to make the mistake of 'rushing into print' and were working to consider
and verify the evidence with Britain's allies.
He added: 'But this is extremely serious, and I think what President Obama said was absolutely right - that this should form for the international community a red line for us to do more.'
Although Mr Cameron said that it is unlikely that troops will be sent into Syria, he said that action was already being taken in the form of trade embargoes, sanctions and travel bans.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the development 'would necessitate some kind of action' but urged caution, calling for a UN investigation.
'Of course it's an appalling thing if chemical weapons are being used and it will necessitate some kind of action. The question is what action is possible and that's what the international community has got to work on,' he told BBC Breakfast.
Britain has to look at 'what we can safely do as a country', he said.
'We need to be cautious. It is deeply worrying what we see in Syria and this news this morning.'
There have been four reports in recent months of chemical weapons being deployed by the Assad regime.
Syria is thought by the CIA to have a large stockpile of chemical weapons thought to include sarin and mustard gas that can be deployed using aircraft, ballistic missiles and artillery rocket.
10-year-old Syrian refugee Bashar al-Zalfi waves the victory sign in front of a wall with the colors of the revolutionary flag, and Arabic reading, 'Syria, don't worry, we will return,' in Mafraq, Jordan
Both the rebel forces and Assad's regime have accused each other of using them and there have been reports from iside Syria of containers, possibly conatining Sarin, being dropped from the air.
Fears have grown in recent months for the safety of the stockpile. It is also believed that Syria has attempted to develop more toxic nerve agents.
And Syria's president al-Assad warned the West will pay a price 'in the heart' of Europe and the U.S. for their alleged backing Islamic fundamentalists in his country's civil war.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague revealed last week that a soil sample taken from Khan al-Assad had tested positive for a chemical agent.
Earlier this week UK foreign secretary Mr Hague said that the UK will try and tear up an EU arms embargo next month so that weapons can be supplied to Syrian rebels and said that both Britain and France want to be able to 'take urgent action' should future atrocities take place.
The UK will send 34 vehicles, including five armoured 4x4s and 20 sets of body armour to those seeking to overthrow dictator Bashar al-Assad.
The Obama administration opposes directly arming Syrian opposition fighters, in part out of fear that the weapons could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists.
NAZI INSPIRED WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION USED BY SADDAM
Sarin is a more sophisticated successor to Zyklon B which was used by the Nazis in the extermination of millions of Jews in Hitler's death camps.
It is like some farm pesticides but does not occur naturally and cannot occur naturally.
Saddam Hussein used it in the late 80s against Kurdish rebels and it was behind the death of the entire population of Halabja.
United Nations agents destroy chemical weapons stockpiled by Saddam Hussein in 1998
It is so toxic that a drop the
size of a pin prick is enough to kill and it is heavier than air so it
hovers close to the ground maximising casualties.
from the colourless, odourless liquid last longer the warmer the
environment so the constant 25°C on Tokyo's subway provided the perfect
attacks the vegal nervous system and victims die within minutes either
through respiratory failure or a heart attack as they choke on their own
mucus or saliva.