The UN has downplayed reports that chemical weapons may have been deployed in Syria, asserting they have no firm proof. The clarification came after a UN investigator said rebel forces may have used the nerve gas sarin.
A UN human rights commission stressed on Monday that it had no "conclusive findings" that either Syrian government or rebel forces had used the poisonous gas during the two-year conflict.
"The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict," the commission said in a statement.
The Geneva-based panel added that it did not wish to comment further to remarks made late Sunday by fellow commission member Carla del Ponte.
Del Ponte, a member of the team tasked with investigating allegations of war crimes in Syria, told Swiss public broadcaster SRF that were suspicions that the chemical weapon sarin had fallen into the hands of rebel forces.
"According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons, resorting to sarin gas," del Ponte said.
She added that while UN Commission of Inquiry was investigating earlier reports that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had also deployed the gas, there was no concrete evidence to verify the claims.
"The investigations are far from being completed," she said.
"Our investigations will need to be further developed, verified and ascertained, but, according to what we were able to establish for the moment, only the opposition to the regime has used sarin gas," she added.
In recent months regime and rebel forces have accused one another of deploying the poisonous gas. The US, Britain and Israel have also asserted that the gas has been used, pointing the finger largely at regime forces.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed the claims, however, as "false and fabricated."
According to UN estimates at least 70,000 people have died in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011.
ccp/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa)