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UN diplomat: 10 incidents of chemical use by Syria

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EDITH M. LEDERER | June 26, 2013 12:43 PM EST | AP

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UNITED NATIONS — Britain and the United States have notified the United Nations of 10 different incidents of alleged chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, a U.N. diplomat said Wednesday.

The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the incidents have not been publicly divulged, said the Americans and British have found no evidence that the opposition possesses or has used chemical weapons.

The Syrian government initially asked for a U.N. investigation of an alleged chemical weapons attack on March 19 on the Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal which it blamed on the rebels. But it has refused to allow a U.N. investigation team into the country to conduct a broader investigation of other allegations of chemical weapons use, initially raised by Britain and France and then by the United States.

Swedish chemical weapons expert Ake Sellstrom, who is leading the investigation team, was in Turkey on Sunday and Monday, reportedly talking to doctors who treated victims of chemical use, and is expected to produce an interim report on his findings, perhaps in the first few weeks of July, the diplomat said.

According to a recent letter to Ban from U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice obtained by The Associated Press, the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin on two occasions in the embattled city of Aleppo in March and April. The letter also said unspecified chemicals, possibly including chemical warfare agents, were used May 14 in an attack on Qasr Abu Samrah and in a May 23 attack on Adra.

President Barack Obama authorized military aid to Syria's rebels for the first time earlier this month after the White House announced it had firm evidence of chemical weapons use by Assad's regime. Rice, who will become the U.S. national security adviser on July 1, said soon after that Syria's use of these weapons "crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades."

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters Tuesday that Sellstrom was welcome to investigate the Khan al-Assal incident – the only investigation Syria agreed to with the United Nations.