Syrian military helicopters dropped bombs containing chlorine on civilians in at least two attacks over the past two years, a special joint investigation of the United Nations and an international chemical weapons monitor said on Wednesday in a confidential report.
The report also found that militants of the Islamic State in Syria had been responsible for an attack last year using poisonous sulfur mustard, which, like chlorine, is banned as a weapon under an international treaty.
The 95-page report, based on a yearlong investigation, represents the first time the United Nations has blamed specific antagonists in the Syrian conflict for the use of chemical weapons, which is a war crime. Previous inquiries have determined that chemical weapons were used, but did not specify by whom.
A panel of investigators from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons submitted the report on Wednesday to members of the United Nations Security Council. It was not made public, but a copy was viewed by The New York Times.
The panel’s findings further damaged the credibility of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who, under international pressure, signed a treaty banning chemical weapons nearly three years ago after a horrific attack in which the nerve agent sarin killed hundreds in a Damascus suburb.
The United States has accused Mr. Assad’s forces of responsibility for that attack. Mr. Assad and his subordinates have consistently denied government forces have used chemical weapons in the conflict.
Mr. Assad’s compliance with commitments made by signing the chemical weapons treaty have long been suspect. Although all of Syria’s declared stockpile of dangerous ingredients to make chemical weapons was exported and destroyed, that operation took far longer than expected and raised questions about whether all had been accounted for. The director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has complained in an internal report about misleading statements from Syria and potentially undeclared “chemical-weapons-related activities” there, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Tuesday, citing what it described as a confidential two-page summary of the report.
The organization’s public affairs office declined to comment.
There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government on the findings in the report submitted to the Security Council on Wednesday. But they could set up a new confrontation at the Security Council between Russia and the United States over whether to impose new penalties on Syria.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Rick Gladstone