05/06/2013, 00.00
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UN report accuses Syrian rebels of using chemical weapons

Investigators are still far from a definitive conclusion, but their report is based on interviews with doctors and victims exposed to sarin gas. Carla Del Ponte, a member of the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria, points the finger at foreign Islamist groups active in Syria. The special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League threatens to resign, says "I am personally, profoundly sorry that my own efforts have produced so little. I apologise to the Syrian people".

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The mystery thickens over the use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war. The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has evidence indicating that rebel forces used the nerve agent sarin against Assad's army. The revelations come during the discussions of possible international support for the rebels and direct armed intervention in Syria. Israeli air strikes against Iranian rocket caches in Damascus are adding to the tensions.

There "are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas," Carla Del Ponte, a former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said in an interview on Swiss-Italian television. However, for the former Swiss prosecutor, there was no conclusive proof.

Sarin gas disappears from clothes and skin after only three weeks of exposure. Investigators for the UN Commission have relied mainly on medical reports and interviews. Started in March, the probe has focused on the province of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo. The investigation indicates that sarin was used based on the treatment victims received. For now, the evidence points towards the rebels, not the government.

For Del Ponte, foreign jihadist groups are to blame, not the Free Syrian Army per se. This is not surprising since foreign fighters have infiltrated the opposition.

"Our investigations will have to be further developed, checked and assessed through new witnesses. However, as far as we could tell, at the moment, only opponents of the regime to have used sarin gas," she explained. "In the future, the investigation could determine whether the Syrian government used this type of weapon or not."

Meanwhile, discussions on a possible intervention are reducing the chances of dialogue between the parties as proposed by Lakhdar Brahimi, Special Envoy for the UN and the Arab League in Syria.

Like his predecessor Kofi Annan, the Algerian diplomat expressed his frustration over the lack of progress, and has threatened to quit.

"I am personally, profoundly sorry that my own efforts have produced so little. I apologise to the Syrian people," Brahimi said.

The Arab League's decision on 26 March to give Syria's seat on the organisation to the Syrian opposition and to supply the latter with weapons, which he deemed premature and dangerous, convinced Brahimi of his powerlessness.

Speaking before the Security Council in April, he slammed the decision by Arab countries, as the latest in a series of acts that show that for Arab leaders "no dialogue or negotiations are possible".

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