FRANCE has said, following tests it carried out on samples recovered in Syria, it is certain the nerve agent sarin has been used there on several occasions.
Growing numbers of reports from the battlefield of the use of chemical weapons have lent urgency to a new diplomatic push to end the war and fuelled some calls for western intervention.
“These tests show the presence of sarin in various samples in our possession … France is certain that sarin gas was used several times in Syria in limited areas,” foreign minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement.
United Nations investigators said yesterday they had “reasonable grounds” to believe that limited amounts of chemical weapons had been used in Syria.
France has been testing samples of suspected chemical weapon elements for several weeks, including some smuggled out by reporters from the French daily Le Monde.
“It would be unacceptable that those guilty of these crimes remain unpunished,” Mr Fabius said, without specifying whether Paris was able to tell which side had used the gas.
The results had been handed to the Swedish head of a UN chemical weapons investigation team, Ake Sellstrom, he said.
A French diplomatic source said the samples had come from Jobar, just inside central Damascus, and Saraqib near the northern city of Idlib.
The sides in the conflict, now in its third year, have accused each other of using chemical weapons.
President Bashar al-Assad’s government has denied using chemical weapons and has, in turn, accused rebels of deploying them in the two-year civil war that the UN says has killed more than 80,000 people.
UN investigators have been ready for weeks, but diplomatic wrangling and safety concerns have delayed their entry into Syria.