UN expert Paulo Pinheiro 370.
(photo credit:REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)
UNITED NATIONS - Increasing the flow of weapons to Syria's government and rebel forces will most likely cause an increase in war crimes in a two-year-old civil war that has killed more than 90,000 people, a UN human rights investigator warned on Friday.
"States who provide arms have responsibilities in terms of the eventual use of those arms to commit ... war crimes or crimes against humanity," said Paulo Pinheiro, who chairs a UN commission of inquiry on rights violations in Syria.
"Those arms will contribute to the escalation of war crimes," he told reporters. "We are very much worried that more arms will signify an increasing presence of those violations."
US President Barack Obama decided a week ago to provide military aid to rebels
trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, citing his government's alleged use of chemical weapons.
Earlier this month Pinheiro said in a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that his team had reasonable grounds to believe that limited amounts of chemical weapons had been used in Syria and warned that the country was in "free-fall."
His team's report said it had received allegations that Syrian government forces as well as rebels had used the banned weapons, but most testimony related to their use by state forces.
Pinheiro reiterated those findings in New York on Friday when he spoke to reporters after addressing an informal UN Security Council session on the report.
Assad's government denies using chemical weapons in the conflict but has accused the opposition forces of using them.
Syria and Russia, one of Assad's main arms suppliers along with Iran, have accused Gulf Arab states Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Britain and France, of arming the rebels.
The European Union last month lifted its arms embargo on Syria. Britain and France have spoken in favor of potentially arming the rebels but say they have taken no decisions to do so.
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