France, Britain confirm use of sarin gas in Syria
PARIS / LONDONFrance said June 4 it has confirmed that the nerve gas sarin was used “multiple times and in a localized way” in Syria, including at least once by the regime. It was the most specific claim by any Western power about chemical weapons attacks in the 27-month-old conflict. Britain later said that tests it conducted on samples taken from Syria also were positive for sarin.
The French and British findings, based on samples taken from Syria, came hours after a U.N. team said it had “reasonable grounds” to suspect small-scale use of toxic chemicals in at least four attacks in March and April.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France 2 television: “We have no doubt that the gas is being used. The conclusion of the laboratory is clear: there is sarin gas.” Experts had analyzed samples brought back from Syria, he said.
Earlier, his ministry released a statement from Fabius in which he said “France is now certain that sarin gas has been used in Syria several times and in a localized fashion.”
Although the statement did not say who had used the gas, it added: “It would be unacceptable that those guilty of these crimes could benefit from impunity.” Later, in his televised remarks, Fabius went further, saying that in at least one case, there was “no doubt that it was the regime and its accomplices.”
A diplomatic source said this particular case was an April 29 helicopter attack by regime forces on Saraqeb, in the northwest province of Idlib. “A line has been indisputably breached,” said Fabius. “We will hold talks with our partners on what we must do and all options are on the table,” he said, to decide “whether to react, including in an armed manner.” “But we are not there yet,” Fabius added, referring to armed intervention. “We must react, but at the same time we must not block an eventual peace conference.”
Following Fabius, Britain said yesterday that physiological samples from Syria had tested positive for sarin gas and there was growing information that the regime was using chemical weapons.
“The material from inside Syria tested positive for sarin,” a government spokesman said. “There is a growing body of limited but persuasive information showing that the regime used and continues to use chemical weapons, including sarin. Britain and France championed the lifting of the arms embargo against arming Syrian rebels last month.
Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.