British tests point to sarin use in Syria: UN envoy

A Syrian victim receives treatment after a chemical attack at a field hospital in Saraqib, Idlib province, April 4, 2017.
A Syrian victim receives treatment after a chemical attack at a field hospital in Saraqib, Idlib province, April 4, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – British scientists have analysed samples from the site of a suspected chemical attack in Syria and concluded that sarin or a sarin-like substance was used, the British ambassador to the United Nations said on Wednesday (April 12).

“The United Kingdom therefore shares the US assessment that it is highly likely that the regime was responsible for a sarin attack on Khan Sheikhun on the 4th of April,” Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the UN Security Council.

Turkish health officials on Tuesday said post-mortem tests on victims of the suspected attack had also concluded that the deadly sarin nerve agent had been used.

The results came from analysis of blood and urine samples of the casualties from the attack in Idlib province who were brought to Turkey for treatment. Three of them died in hospital.

At least 87 people including 31 children died in the suspected attack that the West blames on Syria President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Rycroft said “samples obtained from Khan Sheikhun” have “tested positive for the nerve agent sarin or a sarin-like substance.”

Russia’s Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov, however, cast doubt on the British findings, saying he was “amazed at this conclusion.”

“No one has yet visited the site,” he asserted. “How do you know that?”

Russia has called for a thorough investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of the allegations of chemical weapons use in Khan Sheikhun.

The council was to vote later on Wednesday on a draft resolution demanding the Syrian government cooperate with the investigation, but Russia has said the measure is “unacceptable” and was expected to veto the text.