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France says analysis shows Syria regime behind sarin attack

Kremlin rejects French report, argues evidence of nerve gas found in Khan Sheikhoun doesn’t prove who used it

This photo provided Tuesday, April 4, 2017 by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows victims of a suspected chemical attack, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, Syria. (Edlib Media Center, via AP)
This photo provided Tuesday, April 4, 2017 by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows victims of a suspected chemical attack, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, Syria. (Edlib Media Center, via AP)

PARIS — France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that the chemical analysis of samples taken from a deadly sarin gas attack in Syria earlier this month “bears the signature” of President Bashar Assad’s government and shows it was responsible for the deadly assault.

According to Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, France came to this conclusion after comparing samples from a sarin attack in Syria from 2013 that matched. The findings came in a report published Wednesday.

The Kremlin promptly denounced the French report, saying the samples and the fact the nerve agent was used are not enough to prove who was behind it.

France knows “from sure sources” that “the manufacturing process of the sarin that was sampled is typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories,” Ayrault added. “This method bears the signature of the regime and that is what allows us to establish its responsibility in this attack.”

France’s Foreign Ministry said that blood samples were taken from a victim in Syria on the day of the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 in which more than 80 people were killed.

Environmental samples, the French ministry said, show the weapons were made “according to the same production process of the one used in the sarin attack perpetrated by the Syrian regime in Sarabeq.”

France’s presidency said the country’s intelligence services presented evidence which “demonstrate that the (Syrian) regime still holds chemical warfare agents, in violation of the commitments to eliminate them that it took in 2013.” It said the information will be made public.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault gives a statement to the media following a Defence Cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, April 26, 2017. (AFP/STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault gives a statement to the media following a Defence Cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, April 26, 2017.
(AFP/STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)

It’s thought that Assad’s government still has a stockpile hundreds of tons of chemical weapons despite saying it had handed over all of them.

Speaking to reporters in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s position on the attack is “unchanged” and that “that the only way to establish the truth about what happened near Idlib is an impartial international investigation.”

Russia has previously urged for an international probe, and Peskov expressed regret that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has turned down the Syrian government’s offers to visit the site of the attack and investigate.

The United States has also blame Assad’s government for the April 4 attack in Khan Sheikhoun. The Trump administration fired cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the attack and issued sanctions on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency said to be responsible for producing non-conventional weapons. Syria has strongly denied the accusations.

Earlier Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the airstrike that the US launched at a Syrian military base in retaliation for the in Khan Sheikhoun attack damages the prospects of a political settlement for the war-torn country.

Lavrov told a security conference in Moscow the US response “pushes the prospect for a wide international front on terror even further away.”

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia had to boost security measures at its air base in Syria after the US airstrike. Russia has provided an air cover for the government’s offensive on Islamic State militants.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

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