Britain, France claim Syria used chemical weapons

Britain and France have told the UN that Assad forces have used chemical weapons on more than one occasion

From Colum Lynch and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post:  Britain and France have informed the United Nations that there is credible evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons on more than one occasion since December, according to senior diplomats and officials briefed on the accounts.

In letters to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the two European powers said soil samples, witness interviews and opposition sources support charges that nerve agents were used in and around the cities of Aleppo, Homs and possibly Damascus, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The European reports are in part aimed at countering accusations by the Syrian government that opposition forces had used chemical weapons during fighting in the town of Khan al-Asal near Aleppo on March 19, killing 26 people, including regime troops. Syrian rebels have said that government forces used chemical weapons in the incident.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told a Senate panel Thursday that allegations that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons are still being evaluated.

A U.S. conclusion that the evidence is valid would increase pressure on President Obama to step up assistance to the Syrian opposition. Obama has called any use of chemical weapons in Syria a “game changer. . . .”

European diplomats acknowledged that Syrian forces may have been exposed to chemical agents during the Aleppo attack, but they said it was a “friendly fire” incident in which the troops were hit when a government shell missed its opposition target.

The diplomats cautioned that they suspect the Syrian government has used the weapons only in rare cases and said they believe it was testing the response of the United States and other Western powers.  (photo: World Affairs Journal)

Image: world%20affairs%20journal%204%2020%2013%20Syriaflag.jpg