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UN report expected to confirm chemical weapons use in Syria

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that a report is expected to confirm the use of chemical weapons in an August attack in Syria. The US and Russia are meeting to negotiate a Syrian disarmament plan.

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UN cites chemical weapons use in Syria

"I believe that the report will be an overwhelming, overwhelming report that chemical weapons [were] used even though I cannot publicly say at this time before I receive this report," Ban said at a UN meeting Friday.

The secretary-general did not say whether it was the forces of President Bashar al-Assad or rebel fighters who carried out the August 21 attack outside of Damascus, but did acknowledge that Assad "has committed many crimes against humanity."

The report was compiled by a UN chemical weapons expert team led by Sweden's Ake Sellstrom. He is not allowed to say who carried out last month's attack.

Some 1,400 people were estimated to have been killed in the attack, Ban said, adding that there must be "accountability" once the war is over.

Peace riding on arms deal

US Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva on Friday for a second day of talks on Moscow's plan for disarmament. The two countries have said a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria hinges on the success of negotiations for Assad's government to give up its chemical weapons stockpile.

The US and Russia, both permanent UN Security Council members, have largely taken opposite sides during the conflict. A Russian deal for Syria to submit its chemical weapons to the UN and join a global pact against using such munitions slowed preparations by the US and France for military intervention, also paving the way for the two-day meeting in Switzerland.

Speaking after talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad at the White House on Friday, US President Barack Obama said he had hopes the talks woluld "bear fruit," but added "any agreement needs to be verifiable and enforceable."

Standing beside Lavrov after Friday's meeting, Kerry told reporters that the chance of a second peace conference requires successful disarmament talks, but that the latest negotiations had been "constructive."

"I will say on behalf of the United States that President Obama is deeply committed to a negotiated solution with respect to Syria and we know that Russia is likewise. We are working hard to find the common ground to be able to make that happen," he said. "We discussed some of the homework that we both need to do."

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who met with Kerry and Lavrov, said that their negotiated plan "is extremely important in itself and for itself, but it is also extremely important for us who are working with you on trying to bring together the Geneva conference successfully."

Kerry said he and Lavrov agreed to meet again on September 28 during the annual UN General Assembly in New York.

"We are committed to trying to work together, beginning with this initiative on the chemical weapons, in hopes that those efforts could pay off and bring peace and stability to a war-torn part of the world," Kerry said ahead of Friday's continuing talks.

dr/ph (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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