Moscow claims rebels behind deadly nerve gas attack in Syria
Associated Press in New York
Russia's UN ambassador said Russian experts had determined that Syrian rebels made sarin nerve gas and used it in a deadly chemical weapon attack outside Aleppo in March.
Ambassador Vitaly Churkin blamed opposition fighters for the March 19 attack in the government-controlled Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal, which he said killed 26 people, including 16 military personnel, and injured 86 others.
Rebels have blamed the government for the attack. The US, Britain and France have said all the evidence points at Syrian government involvement.
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said "We have yet to see any evidence that backs up the assertion that anybody besides the Syrian government has had the ability to use chemical weapons or has used chemical weapons."
After delivering an 80-page report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Churkin said that the Assad regime had asked Russia, its closest ally, to investigate the attack after a UN team of chemical weapons experts was unable to enter the country in a dispute over the scope of a planned investigation.
The samples taken from the impact site of the projectile were analysed at a Russian laboratory certified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Churkin said.
He said the analysis showed that the Bashair-3 rocket that hit Khan al-Assal was not a military-standard chemical weapon.
Churkin said the results indicate it "was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin". He said the samples indicated the sarin and the projectile were produced in makeshift "cottage industry" conditions, and the projectile "is not a standard one for chemical use".
"Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was the armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal," Churkin said.
On Monday, Syria invited Ake Sellstrom, head of the UN fact-finding mission on allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, and UN disarmament chief Angela Kane to visit Damascus for talks on conducting a probe of just the Khan al-Assal attack.