A file picture taken on Sept. 15, 2013 shows volunteers wearing gas masks during a class on how to respond to a chemical attack, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on September 15, 2013. AFP PHOTO / JM LOPEZ
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The U.N.-OPCW inquiry -- known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism -- is led by a panel of three independent experts, supported by a team of technical and administrative staff. It is mandated by the U.N. Security Council to identify individuals and organisations responsible for chemical attacks in Syria.The Syrian government, which denied its forces were behind the Ghouta attack, also agreed to hand over its declared stockpile of 1,300 tons of toxic weaponry and dismantle its chemical weapons program under international supervision.The panel published a report in October last year which said Syrian government forces used chemical weapons at least three times in 2014-2015 and that ISIS used mustard gas in 2015 .Washington on Thursday blacklisted 18 senior Syrian officials based on the U.N.-OPCW inquiry's October report -- some of whom also appear on the list seen by Reuters -- but not Assad or his brother.The issue of chemical weapons use in Syria has become a deeply political one, and the U.N.-OPCW inquiry's allegations of chlorine bomb attacks by government forces have split the U.N. Security Council's veto-wielding members.
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