US urges swift and strong action against Assad over chemical attacks

A chemical weapons attack near Damascus in 2013 prompted the UN to take action
A chemical weapons attack near Damascus in 2013 prompted the UN to take action

The US has urged “strong and swift action” after a UN investigation concluded that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people.

The year-long inquiry found the government used chlorine gas in attacks in Idlib province in 2014 and 2015.

Chlorine is an industrial chemical and was not part of the weapons stockpile that Syria agreed to give up in 2013.

However, use of it as a weapon would contravene conventions signed by President Bashar al-Assad.

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said the use of chemical weapons was “barbaric” and called for “all states to support strong and swift action”.

Ms Power accused the Syrian government of violating a September 2013 resolution which orders the UN Security Council (UNSC) to impose measures for “any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic”.

The investigation was carried out by the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an international chemical weapons watchdog.

It also found that so-called Islamic State (IS) had carried out an attack using mustard gas.

The JIM did not draw firm conclusions on other reported chemical weapons attacks which it investigated.

The report will be discussed by the security council next week.

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