U.S. clarifies U.N. speculation about rebel chemical weapon use

U.S. State Department Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell clarified statements on Monday that were recently made by the United Nations about the possibility that the Syrian opposition used chemical weapons.

Over the weekend, the U.N. released a statement that chemical weapons may have been used by Syrian rebels. While the U.N. put together a team to investigate the chemical weapon claims in Syria, it was not the investigative team that made the statement, it was a separate U.N. commission of inquiry that speculated about rebel chemical weapon use.

"The commission of inquiry is wholly separate, a totally different part of the U.N. from the investigation into the use of chemical weapons," Ventrell said. "So there are two very different parts of the U.N. We do support the commission on inquiry; they've done good work. But they had - they did, in fact, clarify their statement from earlier over the weekend."

The U.S. stands by its position that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was most likely perpetrated by Bashar al-Assad's regime.

"Any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime," Ventrell said. "We believe these weapons are secure, but also know the Assad regime has demonstrated a willingness to escalate its horrific use of violence against the Syrian people. So our position has been and will be continuing going forward that all credible allegations must be fully and urgently investigated. And we call on the Assad regime to cooperate fully and allow the U.N. investigators unfettered access to all areas."

When asked if the U.S. was concerned that recent Israeli military activity against Syria could increase the likelihood of chemical weapon use, Ventrell said the U.S. remains concerned that Assad's regime will use the weapons to cause mass casualties.

"Our concern... and this goes back some time, is that the regime has been increasingly willing to use greater and greater violence and greater use of force against its people and that they've demonstrated willingness that they might be willing to go down this step and cause mass casualties through the use of chemical weapons," Ventrell said.