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U.N. panel chief probing 14 suspected Syria chemical attacks

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2013

The head of a special U.N. commission investigating war crimes committed by both sides in Syria's bloody civil war says it is trying to work out who was behind a total of 14 suspected chemical weapon attacks.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said Monday that his Geneva-based U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria was awaiting evidence about some incidents from a team of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors slated to report to the U.N. Security Council later in the day.

The Associated Press reported that Mr. Pinheiro, a Brazilian and veteran U.N. diplomat, emphasized that the "vast majority" of casualties in Syria's civil war are from conventional weapons like guns and mortars.

Mr. Pinheiro told reporters Monday the commission believes that President Bashar Assad's government has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, while it believes that rebel groups have perpetrated war crimes but not crimes against humanity "because there is not a clear chain of command" up which to follow and assign responsibility for systematic murder, as required by international law.

The news comes as top diplomats from the United States, France and Britain stood side by side in Paris to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to uphold his end of any deal on securing and destroying Syria's chemical weapons. France and the U.S. insisted that a military response to the Aug. 21 poison gas attack that killed hundreds remains on the table, and were pressing for a U.N. resolution reflecting that.

The United Nations Security Council is set in coming days to take up the resolution laying out plans for the agreement brokered by the United States and Russia.

"If Assad fails to comply ... we are all agreed, and that includes Russia, that there will be consequences," Secretary of State John Kerry said ahead of meetings in Paris with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two of the strongest proponents for military action against Assad.

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