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Chemical weapons 'clearly' used in Syria, likely by rebels, Russian experts tell UN

A team of Russian experts made the assessment after visited Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo, where Syria claimed rebels had used chemical weapons in a March attack that killed 26.

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Delegates raise placards requesting the floor for their delegation after the report of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Syria on June 4, 2013, ahead of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN investigators said on June 4 they had 'reasonable grounds' to believe chemical weapons have been used by both sides in Syria, and warned that crimes against humanity are now occurring daily in the war-torn country. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Chemical weapons were "clearly" used in Syria — but most likely by Syrian rebels, not the Syrian army, according to Moscow's ambassador to the United Nations.

A team of Russian experts made the assessment after visiting Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo, where Syria claimed rebels had used chemical weapons in a March attack, CNN reported.

The attack reportedly killed 26 people, including 16 regime troops.

CNN quoted Russia's envoy, Vitaly Churkin, as saying:

"The results of the analysis clearly indicate that the ordnance used in Khan al-Assal was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin [poison gas]."

Rebels had accused Syria of using chemical weapons in another part of the country at the same time, CNN added.

'False and clearly fabricated'
A representative of the official opposition refuted Russia's claims, telling the Associated Press the accusations were "fabricated."

The Syrian National Coalition said Russia, as a Syrian ally, can't be trusted.

"Evidence provided by parties that support Assad's tyrannical regime with money, weapons and ammunition is false and clearly fabricated," the group said, according to the AP.

Another Syrian activist said rebels don't have the resources to launch chemical weapons attacks.

Hozan Ibrahim told USA Today that Syria's government has the "fourth-biggest chemical arsenal in the world."

"Russia is trying to pin the crimes of the regime on the rebels," Ibrahim said from Berlin. 

American arms debate
Disputed chemical weapons come as USA Today reports that American arms are falling into enemy hands. 

Photos are circulating on the internet (and Facebook) of pro-Assad, Iranian-supported fighters holding US and European weapons in Syria.

The Shia militias "shouldn't really have their hands on" the weapons seen in the "propaganda" photos, said Phillip Smyth, an analyst for Jihadology.net.

USA Today reported that how the militias got the weapons (whether captured, stolen or purchased on the black market) is unknown.

That American weapons are falling into the wrong hands will complicate President Obama's plan to officially arm the rebels.

The Senate and House are split on how, or if they should, arm those trying to oust Assad, The Washington Post said.

Obama announced the plan last month, but delivery hasn't happened yet.

UN has the evidence
RT said
Russia had handed over their samples taken at the site of the "chemical attack" to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

Churkin continued by saying that the projectile involved in the Khan al-Assal attack was not a standard one for chemical use.

"Hexogen, utilized as an opening charge, is not utilized in standard ammunitions. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal."

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in April the US had "evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale."

However, it was the Syrian government that the White House accused of crossing a "red line" by using chemical weapons against its people.

While a spokesman for Ban said the secretary-general "takes seriously all credible allegations," the US cast doubt on the analysis, according to an ABC report.

Washington has called for full UN access to Syrian sites where chemical weapons use is suspected.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130710/chemical-weapons-clearly-used-syria-likely-rebels-rus