France Sees Indications of New Syrian Chemical Strikes

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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 21, 2014, 7:33 a.m.

French Pres­id­ent Fran­cois Hol­lande said Par­is has seen in­dic­a­tions of a new chem­ic­al-arms at­tack against the Syr­i­an op­pos­i­tion, the Lon­don Guard­i­an re­ports.

Hol­lande on Sunday did not elab­or­ate on what “in­form­a­tion” his gov­ern­ment holds, and he stressed that the data was not con­clus­ive. Op­pon­ents of Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment have de­scribed nine pos­sible in­cid­ents of chem­ic­al-weapons use over the last two months in the coun­try’s civil war.

The ap­par­ent strikes were “much less sig­ni­fic­ant than those in Dam­as­cus … but very deadly,” Hol­lande told the European broad­caster Ra­dio 1.

The claims, which came from anti-As­sad groups both out­side of Syr­ia and in the na­tion’s west­ern and south­ern re­gions, linked the pos­sible strikes to at least 10 deaths and ad­di­tion­al in­jur­ies in the hun­dreds. As­sad’s gov­ern­ment agreed to sur­render its chem­ic­al-war­fare stock­pile last year, after sar­in nerve agent in Au­gust killed hun­dreds of people in an op­pos­i­tion-con­trolled sub­urb of the Syr­i­an cap­it­al.

Still, the re­gime has denied re­spons­ib­il­ity for any chem­ic­al strikes. On Sat­urday, Ir­an’s Fars News Agency ac­cused rebels of car­ry­ing out chlor­ine-gas at­tacks in the Syr­i­an city of Homs.

The Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons, which is help­ing to mon­it­or the dis­man­tle­ment of As­sad’s ar­sen­al, has said it would not re­view new al­leg­a­tions of Syr­i­an chem­ic­al-arms use without a mem­ber coun­try’s re­quest.

The watch­dog agency on Sunday said ships have re­moved roughly four-fifths of As­sad’s chem­ic­al stock­pile from Syr­ia. The latest ship­ments would “con­trib­ute” to ef­forts to fully des­troy the ma­ter­i­als by the end of June, ac­cord­ing to an OP­CW state­ment.

Sigrid Kaag, the spe­cial co­ordin­at­or of a U.N.-OP­CW over­sight op­er­a­tion, in Sat­urday com­ments said “the re­newed pace in move­ments is pos­it­ive and ne­ces­sary to en­sure pro­gress to­wards a tight dead­line.”

In­ter­na­tion­al au­thor­it­ies said As­sad’s gov­ern­ment has fin­ished elim­in­at­ing un­filled mus­tard-agent shells, and has taken steps to shut­ter sites for man­u­fac­tur­ing and hold­ing war­fare chem­ic­als.

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