Syrian government still using chemical weapons, says French foreign minister

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 May, 2014, 8:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 1:25am


France's foreign minister has accused the Syrian government of attacking its people with chemical weapons at least 14 times since October, including as recently as a few weeks ago.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on Tuesday, Laurent Fabius cited "credible witnesses" to the attacks, which he said included the use of chlorine gas. He said it had been difficult to garner definitive proof because chlorine gas generally evaporates too quickly to collect samples.

Under the threat of US air strikes last summer, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to dismantle his chemical weapons programme. Currently, a joint mission by the United Nations and the international chemical weapons watchdog says that 92 per cent of Syria's stockpile has been shipped out of the country to be destroyed at sea.

But Fabius said that Syrian facilities that produce chemical weapons had not been destroyed, and he accused Assad's government of not being fully forthcoming with the West about its continued ability to use toxic chemicals against opponents.

He described the 14 attacks since last October 25 as "small-scale" and not likely to spur a Western military response.

The Syrian government has denied using chlorine, and has instead accused rebels of employing it on the battlefield.

Meanwhile the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday nearly 850 prisoners have died in Syrian regime jails this year, many executed summarily or tortured to death,

"All these people lost their lives as a result of torture, summary executions, maltreatment, poor detention conditions, including a lack of food, and because they were unable to obtain the medicine they needed," according to the Britain-based monitoring group.