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Riyadh: Reported poison gas use a challenge to world

In this Friday, April 11, 2014 image made from amateur video, provided by Shams News Network, a loosely organized anti-Assad group based in and out of Syria that claim not to have any connection to Syrian opposition parties or any other states, and is consistent with independent AP reporting, shows a child crying as he sits on a bed with others, in Kfar Zeita, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus, Syria. Syrian government media and rebel forces said Saturday, April 12, 2014 that poi

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Tuesday that the “grave news” that President Bashar Assad’s forces had carried out two poison gas attacks last week was a challenge to “international will.” Rebels and the Syrian government have blamed each other for the alleged poison gas attacks Friday and Saturday on rebel-held Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama. Both sides said chlorine gas had been used.

“These continuous violations by the Damascus regime require the international community to take firm action against the continuous defiance of international, Arab and Islamic will,” Prince Saud said at a news conference in Riyadh.

The reported gas attacks posed a clear challenge to the Security Council decision to dismantle Assad’s chemical arsenal, he said.

Saudi Arabia is a leading backer of rebels fighting against Assad, who is a close ally of the kingdom’s main rival Iran. It has supplied rebels with training, weapons and cash and worked to mobilize international support for them.

Asked about the possibility of supplying anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels, Prince Saud said it was necessary to change the balance of military power on the ground in Syria but did not give further details.

“The only way the regime would listen to calls for peace is if he [Assad] is forced to agree that we cannot reach a military solution for his desire to quell the revolution,” he said.

Chlorine gas, a deadly agent widely used in World War I, has industrial uses and is not on a list of chemical weapons that Assad declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog last year for destruction.

“Chlorine was not part of the declared stockpile, but chlorine is a chemical weapon under the chemical weapon convention,” said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, CEO of SecureBio, a U.K.-based consultancy firm.

De Bretton-Gordon said that while chlorine gas was readily available in Syria, the attacks consisted of chlorine containers being dropped from helicopters.

“As far as I am aware, the opposition does not have helicopters,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 16, 2014, on page 8.

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Summary

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Tuesday that the "grave news" that President Bashar Assad's forces had carried out two poison gas attacks last week was a challenge to "international will".

Chlorine gas, a deadly agent widely used in World War I, has industrial uses and is not on a list of chemical weapons that Assad declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog last year for destruction.

De Bretton-Gordon said that while chlorine gas was readily available in Syria, the attacks consisted of chlorine containers being dropped from helicopters.


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