Russia Calls for Impartial Investigation of Syria Gas Attack

Russia has “serious grounds” to consider last month’s Syrian chemical attack a “provocation” by rebel forces, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today, calling for a new inquiry to establish who was responsible.

While United Nations inspectors found that poison sarin gas was used in the Aug. 21 attack near Syria’s capital, Damascus, the investigation had no mandate to identify the perpetrators, Lavrov told reporters in Moscow today after meeting his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius.

“We want an impartial, objective and professional investigation of the Aug. 21 events,” Lavrov said. “We have the most serious grounds to consider it a provocation. Some of our partners said dictatorially that only the regime could use such weapons, but the truth must be established.”

Russia has said it suspects the Syrian opposition staged the attack to provoke Western military intervention in the 2 1/2 year conflict, which has killed more than 100,000 people.

Lavrov met with Fabius in Moscow days after the U.S. and Russia reached an agreement in Geneva for the destruction of Syria’s chemical stockpile, which lifted the threat of imminent U.S. military strikes. Russia and Western nations differ on whether the results of a UN probe released yesterday proved that the Syrian government was behind the attack on Aug. 21.

The UN team’s conclusion that surface-to-surface rockets were used in the chemical attack point to the government rather than its lesser-armed opposition, U.S., U.K. and French envoys to the UN told reporters yesterday.

Fabius said today that he has “no doubts” the Assad regime was behind the assault. He called Syria’s willingness to give up chemical weapons a “major change,” which was only possible because of the threat of the use of force.

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