Hollande: Indications That Assad Still Using Chemical Weapons

The Syrian opposition has reported the use of chemical weapons on four occasions in April alone.

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A woman from the Syrian rown of Kafr Zita is respirated after a suspected gas attack.
A woman from the Syrian rown of Kafr Zita is respirated after a suspected gas attack.Credit: Reuters
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Haaretz

French President Francois Hollande said on Sunday that France has indications that the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad is still using chemical weapons, though it still lacks proof.

In an interview with the Europe 1 radio station, Hollande said that France has "some elements of information" regarding the use of chemical weapons by Syria, but "I do not have proof so I cannot give it here."

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also spoke of new "information, that needs to be verified, that there have been chemical attacks recently."

The suspected attacks, which took place in the northwest of the country near Lebanon, Fabius said, were "much smaller" than those in Damascus in August 2013, but nevertheless "very deadly."

One of the suspected attacks occurred in the rebel-held northern Syrian town of Kafr Zita on Friday 11 April 2014. The government has blamed the attack on the rebel Nusra Front using "toxic chlorine," though the opposition has blamed barrel bombs dropped by regime forces.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “regime planes bombed Kafr Zita with explosive barrels that produced thick smoke and odours and led to cases of suffocation and poisoning.”

Following the attack, Syria’s opposition Syrian National Coalition called on the United Nations to investigate the incident.

On April 16, opposition activists accused Assad's forces of a new poison gas attack in the Harasta neighborhood of Damascus. Video footage of four men being treated by medics was posted on YouTube.

It was the fourth chemical attack reported by the opposition this month.

Under the terms of the U.S.-Russia brokered deal reached last year, Syria has until the end of June to destroy its chemical weapon stockpile if it wants to ward off the threat of U.S. air strikes.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the global chemical watchdog, said on Sunday that 80 percent of the country's chemical weapons stockpile has now been shipped out or destroyed.

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