U.N. team reports clear and convincing evidence of Syrian chemical weapon use

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Monday that the team probing chemical weapons use in Syria found clear and convincing evidence that sarin gas was used in an attack on August 21.

The U.N. team, led by Swedish scientist Åke Sellström, also found that surface-to-surface rockets containing sarin were used in Zamalka, Moadamiya, Ein Tarma and the Ghouta area of Damascus.

"The report makes for chilling reading," Ban said. "(On the basis of evidence obtained during the team's investigation) chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in (Syria), also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale."

Ban said Sellström's team was able to determine objectively that sarin was used on a relatively large scale. He said the statements by survivors offered a vivid account of the August 21 attack. The survivors said they experienced a range of symptoms after the attack including blurred vision, nausea, eye irritation, disorientation, shortness of breath and general weakness.

"The results are overwhelming and indisputable," Ban said. "The facts speak for themselves. The United Nations mission has now confirmed, unequivocally and objectively, that chemical weapons have been used in Syria."

Ban said that 85 percent of blood samples from the sites in Ghouta tested positive for sarin. The majority of rocket fragments were found to be carrying the deadly chemical weapon.

"There must be accountability for the use of chemical weapons," Ban said. "Any use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, is a crime. But our message today must be more than: Do not slaughter your people with gas. There must also be no impunity for the crimes being committed with conventional weapons."

Ban stressed that the incident was the most serious chemical weapons incident since Saddam Hussein attacked the Halabja region of Iraq with the weapons. He said it marked the worst use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21st century.

"This is a war crime," Ban said. "The international community has a responsibility to hold the perpetrators accountable and to ensure that chemical weapons never re-emerge as an instrument of warfare."