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Russia says it has evidence of chemical weapons use by Syrian rebels

Biological and Chemical WeaponsUnrest, Conflicts and WarNational GovernmentPoliticsRussiaBashar AssadBan Ki-moon

MOSCOW – Russia will submit evidence to the United Nations Security Council implicating Syrian rebels in chemical weapons attacks, including one last month on Damascus suburbs,  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.

“We have plenty of evidence and reports of chemical weapons use that prove the fact that the opposition regularly resorts to provocations to bring about strikes and intervention against Syria,” Lavrov told reporters in the city of Valdai, in northwestern Russia.

Lavrov’s comments comes as Security Council members are debating a resolution laying out how the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad is to meet its obligations under a plan agreed on by the United States and Russia for the surrender of its chemical weapons stockpiles. The U.S. and its allies are pressing for tough enforcement measures, but Russia has resisted any suggestion of military action.

A U.N. report released Monday said weapons inspectors found “clear and convincing evidence” that rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in the Aug. 21 attack, which the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people. Although the report did not assign blame, Western diplomats and independent experts said it offered irrefutable proof that government forces were behind the attack.

Lavrov said Wednesday that Syria had provided his deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, who was visiting Damascus, with new evidence implicating the rebels in last month’s attack and other alleged instances of chemical weapons use.

“I haven't seen the documents yet, but I’m sure that experts will work with them,”  he said. “And of course we will submit them to the U.N. Security Council.”

In comments to Russian news agencies, Ryabkov confirmed that he had received new information from the Syrian government but provided no details. He said he was “disappointed” with the findings of the U.N. weapons inspectors, which he called “politicized, biased and unilateral.”

In New York, Martin Nesirky, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, defended the weapons inspectors’ report, which he told reporters was “thoroughly objective” and based on the highest scientific standards. He said the U.N. inspectors would return to Syria as soon as practical to look into all other credible reports of chemical weapons use.

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