Syria's Sarin More Potent Than What Saddam Had, UN Says

U.N. report says sarin use was on a "large scale."

ByABC News
September 16, 2013, 6:17 PM

Sept. 16, 2013— -- The sarin gas used on Syrian civilians was of higher quality than was found in Saddam Hussein's chemical weapon arsenal, the U.N. said today.

The Obama administration says that the United Nations chemical weapons report released today provides more proof that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people.

The 41 page report found that "chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale in the Ghouta area of Damascus" on Aug. 21 and concludes that "the attack resulted in numerous casualties, particularly among civilians."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters that the results are "overwhelming and indisputable. The facts speak for themselves."

The head of the inspection team, Prof. Åke Sellström, told reporters that quality of sarin found in Ghouta was of a higher quality than that used by Iraq's Saddam Hussein in his chemical weapons program.

While the team of experts did not place responsibility for the attack, the Obama administration said that given the evidence presented, it was clear that the Assad regime is responsible.

"The findings in the report…do support the conclusion the world already reached based on overwhelming evidence that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

"It reinforces what we believe was already overwhelming evidence, not only that a chemical weapons attack occurred on a large scale, that sarin nerve agent was used, and that the only group capable of delivering that attack, both in the means that it was delivered through surface- to-surface rockets and using the agent that was use, was the Assad regime," said Carney.

The United States Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power pointed out where evidence the United States has presented, match evidence from the U.N. report.

"We have associated one type of munition cited in the U.N. report – 122mm rockets – with previous regime attacks," said Power. "We have reviewed thousands of open source videos related to the current conflict in Syria and have not observed the opposition manufacturing or using this style of rocket."

Power also reiterated that while it's been proven the regime possesses sarin, "We have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin," she said. Nearly all samples tested positive for sarin gas, according to the report.

The U.N. mission said it "collected clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in the Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah and Zalmalka in the Ghouta area of Damascus."

During the investigation, the U.N. team interviewed more than 50 survivors, medical personnel and first responders. The team assessed survivors' symptoms and collected biomedical samples, including from hair, urine and blood.

They also documented and sampled impact sites and munitions, and collected 30 soil and environmental samples.

As expected, the report stops short of blaming the Assad regime or the opposition, which would have gone beyond the inspectors' mandate.

However, the secretary-general called on the United Nations Security Council and the international community to take action on Syria, even beyond the deal made between Russia and the United States for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons.

"As action on chemical weapons moves ahead, the international community, including the United Nations, should also not be blind to the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed with conventional weapons," said Ki-Moon. "After two and half years of tragedy, now is the moment for the Security Council to uphold its political and moral responsibilities and demonstrate the political will to move forward in a decisive manner."