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Secret US State Department cable questions chemical weapons claims in Syria: Report

Reports suggest conflicting US positions on chemical warfare in Syria.

Syria ruined citiesEnlarge
Residents walk among the rubble of the ruined city of Maarat al-Nu'man in northwestern Syria. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

The contents of a leaked top-secret US State Department cable that Foreign Policy claimed contained fresh evidence of the use of chemical weapons in war-torn Syria have been dismissed by the State Department as inconclusive, reported Reuters

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland today said US officials were unable to substantiate the contents of the cable, which FP said suggested that Assad engaged in chemical warfare at a flashpoint Syrian city late last month.

President Barack Obama, responding to unconfirmed reports that Assad was using the country's chemical weapons against his own people, earlier said any such action would cross a "red line," The Daily Beast's David Frum reminded readers today, adding it looks like that "line's been crossed." 

Or not, according to Nuland. Her response when asked today if the US had any grounds for believing reports of chemical warfare there was an explicit, "No," according to Reuters

"At the time, we looked into the allegations that were made, and the information that we had received, and we found no credible evidence to corroborate or to confirm that chemical weapons were used," Nuland said, reported Wired

In the cable as reported by FP, the US consul general in Turkey, Scott Frederic Kilner, detailed strong evidence that Assad had unleashed deadly poison gas in the divided city of Homs on December 23, 2012. 

"We can't definitely say 100 percent, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs on Dec. 23," an unnamed Obama official who had allegedly seen the cable told Foreign Policy's The Cable

"When this particular message came in from Consulate Istanbul, we took it seriously, as we do with all such anecdotal reporting, and concluded at the time that we couldn't corroborate it," Nuland told reporters today. "We haven't been able to corroborate it since, either," reported Reuters

Homs has been at the forefront of the ongoing struggle between Assad and a rebel movement seeking his overthrow. International efforts to resolve the conflict, which has so far taken some 60,000 lives, have not been successful.

Violence in Syria continues, meanwhile, with blasts at the University of Aleppo on Tuesday killing at least 82 people and wounding dozens. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130116/us-state-department-has-more-evidence-chemical-weapon