WASHINGTON – The United States has indications that a toxic chemical, probably chlorine, was used in Syria this month and is examining whether the Syrian government was responsible, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.
“We have indications of the use of a toxic industrial chemical” in the town of Kfar Zeita, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, referring to a rebel-held area.
“We are examining allegations that the government was responsible,” she told reporters. “Obviously there needs to be an investigation of what’s happened here.”
Syrian opposition activists reported that helicopters dropped chlorine gas on Kfar Zeita on April 11 and 12. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told ABC television’s “This Week” on April 13 that the attack was “unsubstantiated.”
Psaki said chlorine was not one of the priority one or two chemicals Syria declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) under a Russian-U.S. agreement for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
She said the United States was still trying to determine the facts, and she rejected presidential elections announced by Syria on Monday as “a parody of democracy” that “neither addresses the aspirations of the Syrian people, nor moves the country any closer to a negotiated political solution.”
The vote, set for June 3, lays the groundwork for Assad to defy widespread opposition and extend his grip on power, days after he said the civil war was turning in his favor.
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