Russia queries Syria chemical weapons reports

Lavrov says any attempt by US to enforce no-fly zone would violate international law

Russia's foreign minister has said the evidence put forward by the United States of chemical weapons use in Syria apparently does not meet stringent criteria for reliability.

The Obama administration said this week that it will give military aid to Syrian rebels in light of evidence that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons in the country’s civil war.

Russia, which has protected Dr Assad from three UN Security Council resolutions aimed at pressuring him to end violence, vehemently opposes any foreign military intervention in the Syrian conflict.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said today that the material does not include guarantees that it meets the requirements of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

He said the organisation specifies that samples taken from blood, urine and clothing can be considered reliable evidence only if supervised by organisation experts from the time they are taken up to delivery to a laboratory.

Mr Lavrov also said any attempt to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria using F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missiles from Jordan would violate international law. "There have been leaks from Western media regarding the serious consideration to create a no-fly zone over Syria through the deployment of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and F-16 jets in Jordan," said Mr Lavrov.

“You don’t have to be a great expert to understand that this will violate international law,” he said.

The United States has moved Patriot missiles and fighter jets into Jordan, officially as part of an annual exercise in the past week, but making clear that the military assets could stay on when the war games are over.

Agencies