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France: Sarin gas used in Syria

Samples taken from Syria and tested in France have confirmed that sarin gas has been used there multiple times, at least once by Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and its accomplices, France's foreign minister said.

Laurent Fabius said the tests carried out by a French laboratory "prove the presence of sarin in the samples in our possession." He said France "now is certain that sarin gas was used in Syria multiple times and in a localised way."

The brief statement concluded: "It would be unacceptable that those guilty of these crimes benefit from impunity."

Mr Fabius later said on the TV station France 2, "We analysed Le Monde samples and other samples, and it is clear: there is sarin gas." He said the lab analysed two sets of samples, one gathered by Le Monde reporters and another he didn't identify.

Asked about their origin, he said: "In the second case, there is no doubt that it is the regime and its accomplices. We have integrally traced the chain, from the attack, to the moment people were killed, to when the samples were taken and analysed."

Questioned about how his government would respond, the minister said: "All options are on the table. That means we could decide not to intervene, or we could decide to intervene, including militarily, where the gas is produced or stored."

French military authorities had said they were analysing medical samples from patients hospitalised after inhaling poison gas in Syria to determine whether chemical weapons were used. Le Monde newspaper had said its reporters who travelled to Syria recently submitted the samples to France's government for analysis.

The daily had said the samples were taken by Syrian doctors, and that the patients' symptoms "resemble the effects produced by neurotoxic agents present in the Syrian chemical arsenal."

Earlier, a UN report on Syria said there are "reasonable grounds" to believe that limited quantities of toxic chemicals have been used as weapons in at least four attacks in Syria's civil war, but that more evidence is needed to determine the precise chemical agents used or who used them.

The UN Commission of Inquiry said conclusive findings can be reached only after testing samples taken directly from victims or the site of the alleged attacks. It called on Damascus to allow a team of experts into the country, saying lack of access continues to hamper the commission's ability to fulfil its mandate.

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