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Putin claims proof Syrian rebels used chemical weapons


WASHINGTON – Debate whether the Syrian government or the Syrian opposition  used chemical weapons on civilians has been dealt a twist with a  little-publicized revelation by Russian President Vladimir Putin his country has  evidence chemical laboratories in Iraq produced weapons for the Sunni  rebels.

Putin’s revelation came at the end of last week’s G8 Summit of industrialized  nations and aligns with an earlier report out of the Middle East that former  Baath regime officials of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who are Sunnis, are  involved in the production and procurement of such weapons for those fighting  the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

“We know that opposition fighters were detained on Turkish territory with  chemical weapons,” Putin said. “We have information out of Iraq that a  laboratory was discovered there for the production of chemical weapons by the  opposition. All this evidence needs to be studied most seriously.”

At the time of the press conference, Putin did not detail the sourcing of  that evidence, the name or location of the laboratory. He is expected to hand  off that data to the United Nations for further study.

The idea that Syria’s government used chemical weapons has been the  foundation of a move by President Obama to decide to supply weapons to the  Syrian opposition.

Earlier, the French said it was the Syrian government which used the chemical  weapon Sarin.

The Obama administration had said the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian  regime would be a “red-line” and a “game-changer” that would prompt the U.S. to  begin supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition.

A French official who last week announced that it was the Syrian government  that used Sarin on its population said that the tests complied with  international standards to prove chemical weapons were used in Syria.

However, the report still didn’t point directly to the Syrian government.

U.N. investigators who accepted the French report reacted cautiously to the  tests, saying that it was essential to know the chain of custody of the samples  used for testing.

Despite its “red-line” pronouncement, the Obama administration also expressed  caution over the French findings.

“A U.N. statement said that Mr. (Ake) Sellstrom cautions that the validity of  the information is not ensured in the absence of convincing evidence of the  chain of custody of the data collected.”

Sellstrom is a Swedish scientist who heads the U.N. chemical weapons  investigation team. This caution followed a preliminary report by a U.N. investigative team that similarly concluded that the chemical weapon Sarin had been used on Syrian civilians and some 15 Syrian military personnel in Aleppo, a strategic northern Syrian city that is the commercial center of the country.

Last month, a U.N. team released a preliminary report, based on the results  of a commission of inquiry, that suggested Syrian rebels had used Sarin, a nerve  agent that can be delivered in artillery shells, among other means of  delivery.

Leading the U.N. commission of inquiry was Carla Del Ponte who said there was  “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that the rebels  initiated the Sarin attack. The U.N. still hasn’t entirely endorsed Del Ponte’s  preliminary findings.

Sarin is a colorless, odorless liquid or gas that attacks the respiratory  system and can lead to death. It is banned under international law as a weapon  of mass destruction, or WMD.

“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims,  doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report…which I have seen,  there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the  use of Sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said.

“This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the  government authorities,” she added in a recent interview on Swiss-Italian  television.

Her report also coincided with an interview WND recently had with Syrian  Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi who was adamant that the Syrian government  did not use Sarin on its own population.

He insisted that it came from “terrorists,” referring to foreign fighters,  particularly the al-Qaida in Iraq Jabhat al-Nusra, which is thought to have the  capability of handling and using Sarin.

“There is no rational human being that would think the Syrian army would  inflict casualties on itself,” he said, considering that some 15 Syrian army  soldiers were killed in the explosion.

“Syria will never use chemical weapons against its citizens,” said al-Halqi,  who was Syria’s former health minister and is a medical doctor.

He claimed that the weapons with Sarin were “manufactured in Turkey and  funneled to the terrorists.”

Al-Halqi was firm in claiming that foreign fighters not only were behind the  Sarin attack but said the Sunni Salafis affiliated with al-Qaida and its  offshoot in Syria, the al-Nusra group from al-Qaida in Iraq, are primarily  behind the attacks under way in the country now.

He said that some 65,000 tons of heavy weapons have been funneled into Turkey  from Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Turkey, which like these countries is Sunni, backs Saudi Arabian efforts to  remove the regime of Assad from power and replace it with a Sunni regime.

Assad is a Shiite Alawite, although the majority of the Syrian population is  Sunni. Many of the weapons, he said, have been captured, including some from  Israel, as well as “Stingers” and anti-tank rockets and mortars.

In revealing that he has proof of Syrian rebel use of Sarin, Putin questioned  the credibility of allegations by the U.S., Great Britain and France that the  Assad regime had used chemical weapons. He then went on to attribute its use to  “forces supported by the West,” one source said.

What Putin may be alluding to is documentation that backs up yet another  little-publicized report that people were killed in the Khan al-Assal area of  rural Aleppo with chemical weapons supplied to the foreign fighters by a  Saddam-era general working under the head of the now-outlawed Baath party Izzat  Ibrahim al-Douri.

Sources say that the chemical weapons used in this attack had been prepared  by former Iraqi Military Industries Brig. Gen. Adnan al-Dulaimi and supplied to  Baath-affiliated terrorists of the Jabhat al-Nusra Front in Aleppo through  Turkey’s cooperation.

These weapons reportedly were conveyed to the foreign Islamist militants  through the Turkish town of Antakya in Hatay Province.

The sourcing of this report is said to be an aide to al-Douri, the most  senior member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle who is still on the run and heads  the outlawed Baath party. The source had defected from the group a few months  ago, taking with him documents substantiating al-Douri’s plans.

Al-Dulaimi was a central figure in Saddam’s chemical weapons program.

“The 80 mm mortar shells which landed in Khan al-Assal and killed dozens of  people were armed with the latest product of Dulaimi’s hidden laboratories sent  to the Nusra members for testing,” the source said.

“Also at his order, several former Iraqi military industries engineers  trained the Syrian terrorists on how to use these chemical weapons,” the source  said, adding that all plans in this connection were prepared by al-Dulaimi and  staged after Ibrahim’s approval.

The chemical mortar shells, which the source said were fired at Khan al-Assal  from the Nusra-ruled Kafr Dael in Northwestern Aleppo, contained a chemical  substance very familiar to the Iraqi Baath party leaders, Sarin nerve gas.

Al-Dulaimi and his Baathist colleagues in Iraq’s military industries  mass-produced the same lethal gas and used it in vast areas against Iranian  troops in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and eventually killed thousands of people  in the Kurdish town of Halabcheh with the same chemical agent

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