Three New Cases of Chemical Weapons in Syria, U.K. Says

The U.K. has given the United Nations information about three additional cases alleging the use of chemical weapons in Syria and has attributed the attacks to President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

“The U.K. is extremely concerned about the ongoing allegations of chemical-weapons use in Syria,” the Foreign Office in London said in an e-mailed statement today. The “allegations relate to incidents which reportedly took place in March and April this year.”

The evidence gathered was submitted to a team of scientists that hasn’t been given clearance by Assad to enter Syria and investigate alleged use of its chemical arsenal. The office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it has received the U.K. letter and is studying the information.

The latest allegations bring the number of cases reported by governments to at least six, putting pressure on the U.S. and its European allies to take action in response.

President Barack Obama has said Syrian government use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” though the U.S. lacks conclusive evidence that it has happened. Obama hasn’t said what the U.S. will do if chemical weapons use is confirmed.

“I preserve the options of taking additional steps” on Syria, both “diplomatic and military,” Obama said at a news conference May 16.

Any use of chemical weapons by Syria’s regime “wouldn’t be without reply” and the reaction would be “severe,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in an interview today with France Inter radio. Pressed on what “severe” meant, Fabius said “it’s the final stage before a strike.”

Chemical Weapons

Earlier this week, France’s LeMonde newspaper reported that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on several occasions in and around the capital, Damascus, based on interviews with doctors and witnesses. In addition, the newspaper said one of its photographers had suffered blurred vision and respiratory difficulties after an attack April 13 in Damascus.

Tests on samples brought from Syria by French journalists will take about three weeks to analyze, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said May 28.

A month ago, the Obama administration told Congress that U.S. intelligence agencies had assessed “with varying degrees of confidence” that Syria has used small amounts of chemical weapons in the conflict against rebel forces seeking to topple Assad. Obama said he needed more than an intelligence assessment to make a determination to take action.

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