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October 2, 2014
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Syria: Chemical weapons watchdog considering investigation on chlorine gas attacks

A woman, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, breathes through an oxygen mask inside a field hospital in Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama

The head of the global chemical weapons watchdog overseeing the destruction of Syria's toxic stockpile is considering launching a fact-finding mission there to investigate reports of attacks with chlorine gas, sources said.

Attacks this month in several areas of the country share characteristics that have led analysts to believe that there is a coordinated chlorine campaign, with growing evidence that it is the government side dropping the bombs.

Syria became a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) last year as part of a deal with Russia and the United States to destroy its chemical weapons programme.

Chlorine gas that was never included on the list submitted by Al-Assad’s regime to the OPCW is now allegedly being used on the battlefield, leading some countries to consider requesting an investigation.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said this week that Washington had indications that chlorine was probably used by government forces in Syria and said an investigation was needed.

"The OPCW director general is considering, on his own initiative, sending a fact-finding mission," one source said. "A number of questions are still to be answered: Syrian consent, mandate of the mission, participants from other organisations, such as the World Health Organization."

OPCW's head, Ahmet Uzumcu, has the authority to initiate an investigation into alleged use of chemical weapons in member states, including Syria, without the need to seek a formal request from a member state.

Chlorine gas attacks, if proven, expose a major loophole in an international deal to remove chemical weapons from the war-torn country and suggest chemical warfare could persist after the removal operation has finished.

Syria has vowed to hand over or destroy its entire arsenal by the end of this week. It still has roughly 14 percent of the chemicals it declared to the OPCW and has not yet destroyed all of a dozen production and storage facilities.

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Tags:  Syria  chemical weapons  chlorine gas  OPCW  





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