Sep 19, 2013

    UN gas-attack report biased, says Russia

    RUSSIA said yesterday that the Syrian regime had handed over new evidence implicating rebels in a deadly poison-gas attack, as divisions between Moscow and the West re-emerged after a landmark deal to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons.

    Despite a weekend agreement between the United States and Russia aimed at dismantling Syria's chemical arsenal by the middle of next year, the two sides remained at loggerheads in their assessment of the Aug 21 attack outside Damascus that left hundreds of people dead.

    While US President Barack Obama said that it was "inconceivable" that anyone other than the Syrian regime could have carried out the attack, Russia slammed a United Nations report that the West said proves the regime's guilt. Moscow called that report "biased and one-sided".

    Mr Aake Sellstroem, who led the UN team that compiled the report, said that the inspectors would be returning to Syria "soon" to investigate further allegations of chemical-weapon use.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said yesterday, after the first of two days of talks in Damascus, that the Syrian regime has handed Russia new materials implicating rebels in the attack that horrified the world.

    "The corresponding materials were handed to the Russian side. We were told that they were evidence that the rebels are implicated in the chemical attack," Mr Ryabkov was quoted as saying by news agencies after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem late on Tuesday.

    He said Russia would "examine the Syrian materials implicating the rebels with the utmost seriousness".

    To the fury of the West, Russia has repeatedly expressed suspicion that the chemical attack was a "provocation" staged by the rebels, with the aim of attracting Western military intervention in the conflict.

    Mr Ryabkov also said Russia was disappointed with the report into the chemical-weapon attack published by UN inspectors this week, saying it was selective and had ignored other episodes.

    "Without a full picture...we cannot describe the character of the conclusions as anything other than politicised, biased and one-sided," he was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.