Tuesday, July 9, 2013

 

Syria claims discovery of enough chemical weapons to "destroy a country"

UNITED NATIONS, July 8 - Syria has invited the United Nations top Syrian chemical weapons investigator and the UN high representative for disarmament to Damascus following the discovery of enough rebel-held chemical weapons to "destroy a whole country, " the Damascus envoy to the world body said on Monday.


Bashar Ja'afari, Syria's permanent representative to the United Nations, told reporters the head of the team, Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom who has been waiting to enter Syria to investigate the use earlier this year of chemical weapons by both the government and the opposition, was invited along with UN High Representative for Disarmament Angela Kane.

"This invitation proves once again the openness of the Syrian government with regard to cooperation with the United Nations in revealing the truth behind the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria," he said. "We as always have dealt with transparency in dealing with the UN and its agencies."

However, he side-stepped the question of whether the talks would be about investigation of all allegations or only those made by the Syrian government about the alleged use of chemical weapons by rebels.

The Syrian government in March accused the rebels in northern Syria of firing a chemical rocket at the town of Khan al-Asal that killed more than 26 people, while Britain, France and the United States alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon then established the team to investigate all allegations.

Asked whether new Sellstrom-Kane talks with the Syrians would cover investigation of all allegations, Ja'afari replied, "We are here talking only about the agreement that we are intending to reach with the secretary-general because the secretary-general was the one who established the team. So we deal with the secretary- general."

A spokesman for Ban said he welcomed Syria's offer for discussions on the investigation.

"He remains seriously concerned about all allegations on the use of chemical weapons in Syria," said the spokesman in a statement.

"Sellstrom, will travel to New York this week to update the secretary-general on the status of his activities," the statement said.

"Pending its on-site access in Syria, the mission has continued to monitor developments as well as to collect and analyze information made available by member states.

The mission has also conducted fact-finding activities in a neighboring country."

"The secretary-general hopes that Syria will grant access to the mission to conduct its comprehensive on-site investigation," the spokesman said.

"Cooperation from Syria in this regard will be essential for the mission to establish facts in a credible manner regarding any use of chemical weapons in Syria."

The talks would take place within the Foreign Ministry and involve "specialized, competent experts" and involve "the mechanism and terms of reference of the mission," Ja'afari said.

As for the latest trove of chemical weapons reported, Ja'afari said, they were just discovered Sunday.

"The Syrian authorities have discovered yesterday in the city of Banias 281 barrels filled with dangerous, hazardous, chemical materials .. capable of destroying a whole city, if not a whole country and the investigation is still undergoing," he said.

"These various other chemical materials were found in a secret storage controlled and monitored by the armed terrorist groups," he added.

The industrial chemicals were listed as 79 barrels of polyethylene glycol (PEG), 67 barrels of mono ethylene glycol, 25 barrels of mono ethanol (or ethanolamine) and 68 barrels of diethanolamine (DEA) and 42 barrels of triethanolamine (TEA).

In addition to the cache of chemicals found in the coastal town of Bania, Ja'afari recalled that "Turkish authorities" announced about two weeks ago the arrests of 12 people he identified as terrorists headed for Syria "carrying with them 2 kilograms of sarin gas.

These terrorists were coming from Libya and they had the gas, sarin, aboard the civilian airline that transported them from Libya to Turkey."

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