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Wednesday 21 February 2018

Kerry claims evidence shows Syria used chlorine gas in attacks

Damien McElroy in London

America has joined France in acquiring intelligence that chlorine gas has been used in attacks against rebel-held areas in Syria, according to John Kerry, the US Secretary of State.

Mr Kerry said he had seen "raw" information that chlorine had been used and that the incidents would constitute a violation of the chemical weapons convention that Syria signed last year.

Tests conducted by the 'Daily Telegraph' on material gathered from sites in Syria where the regime dropped poison gas barrel bombs last month clearly showed the presence of ammonia and chlorine.

Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said on Wednesday that Paris was evaluating evidence of 14 attacks by the regime using chemicals since last October.

Mr Kerry said the US also possessed evidence of attacks. "I have seen evidence," he told a news conference in London. "I've seen the raw data that suggests that there may have been, as France has suggested, a number of instances in which chlorine has been used in the conduct of war. If it has, and if it could be proven, then that would be against the agreements of the chemical weapons treaty, against the weapons convention that Syria has signed up to."

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British security expert who conducted the tests for the 'Daily Telegraph', said Mr Kerry's remarks showed that the Syrian regime was continuing to use chemical weapons despite its promises to disarm.

"The inference from Mr Kerry is that chlorine has been used to break the chemical weapons convention but that he is not fully certain of the precise chain of evidence the US possesses," he said.

Syria signed the Chemical Weapons Convention last year as part of a deal to surrender its arsenal after it was accused of a sarin attack in the suburbs of Damascus.

Possessing chlorine is not a violation of the convention, but the treaty bans the use of the gas as a weapon.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has sent a team to carry out investigations in Syria. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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