US ‘Highly Skeptical’ Syrian Rebels Used Chemical Weapons

WASHINGTON, May 6 (RIA Novosti) – US officials are “highly skeptical” of claims that Syrian rebels had deployed chemical weapons in their war with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

“We find it highly likely that any chemical weapon use that has taken place in Syria was done by the Assad regime. And that remains our position,” Carney said.

The comments followed an interview that Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN commission to monitor and investigate reported human rights abuses in Syria, gave to a Swiss-Italian TV network in which she said the commission had received testimony from victims and doctors about the alleged use of the deadly nerve gas sarin by rebel forces.

“According to the testimonies that we have collected, the rebels have used chemical weapons, by using sarin gas,” Del Ponte told Radiotelevisione svizzera.

The Syrian government and rebel forces have traded accusations of using chemical weapons in recent weeks.

Last month, the White House said in a letter to lawmakers that intelligence gathered by the United States, with the help of opposition forces in Syria, shows the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale.

Both Carney and US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Monday that the United States still believes that forces loyal to the Assad government were behind the purported chemical weapons attack.

“Any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime,” Ventrell told a news briefing.

A senior State Department official said Monday that US officials “have no information” suggesting the Syrian rebels “have either the capability or the intent to deploy or use such weapons.”

The official added that Del Ponte’s independent commission is separate from the team of experts assembled by the UN to investigate the purported use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Carney on Monday declined to comment directly on the Israeli airstrikes on targets inside Syria over the weekend, which a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said targeted a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 guided missiles believed to be on their way to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, the Associated Press reported.

Carney said, however, that Israel “certainly has the right to be concerned about the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, and that has been a concern of Israel’s for a long time.”

According to Syria’s state news agency SANA, the Israeli attack targeted a research facility near the capital Damascus.


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