Syria: Another chemical attack near Turkey border

Syrian envoy to the UN says rebels used chemical weapons on civilians; Obama: US has evidence of WMD use in Syria.

Syrian UN envoy Bashar Ja'afari 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Allison Joyce)
Syrian UN envoy Bashar Ja'afari 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Allison Joyce)
UNITED NATIONS – Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Ja’afari announced on Tuesday that a new chemical attack had occurred in a small town near its border with Turkey.
Ja’afari claimed that, as the Syrian army was gaining territory from rebel forces in the north, plastic bags filled with white powder were distributed, resulting in symptoms associated with the effects of chemical weapons among its residents.
“The victims were transported to Turkey to be treated in Turkish hospitals and then, of course, today or tomorrow you will hear again that the Turkish government has new tools indicating that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people,” Ja’afari charged.
At an international press conference, the Syrian envoy slammed Britain and France for citing evidence that they refuse to reveal publicly, and criticized UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for taking their findings seriously.
“This hostile campaign is led by some parties that have made no secret of their hostility,” he said, blaming the UK for introducing chemical weapons to the Middle East.
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He called on Ban to share with Syrian authorities all the intelligence the UN has acquired from outside parties, and said that interference by other countries is causing a delay in the investigation – requested by the Syrian government – into a chemical attack in the Syrian city of Aleppo on March 19.
Ja’afari’s comments overlapped with speeches by US President Barack Obama in Washington and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, speaking from Tehran, both concerning an increasingly urgent situation in the Syrian crisis.
At the White House, Obama clarified the American position on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The president said that “what we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.”
He also updated his definition of the term “game-changer,” saying his administration would have to reevaluate its options in its approach to the Syrian crisis.
Obama aimed to clarify his position as pressure builds on the White House over a previously drawn “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
Nasrallah, meanwhile, warned Syria’s rebels against attempting any attacks in Lebanese territory, and told them that they would not be able to take Damascus by force from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
“Syria has friends that will not allow it to fall in the hands of the US, Israel or Takfiri groups,” Nasrallah said.
The Hezbollah leader expressed deep fears that any strike on the Sayidda Zeinab Mosque in Damascus – a holy Shi’ite site where the Prophet Muhammad’s granddaughter is believed to be buried – would inflame the region to a point of true chaos.
Ja’afari, in his UN speech, cited Iraq as a lesson for the international community to bear in mind, as allegations continue to mount against his government.
“We all know for sure the final conclusion, that was [that] they didn’t find anything in Iraq,” he said, charging that the Assad government will not let inspectors “move freely on Syrian territory” to investigate “unfounded allegations.”
Explaining why the Assad government wouldn’t use such weapons, Ja’afari adopted similar language, saying that “it’s not just a red line – it’s a purple line. It’s a blood line.”