|March 22, 2013
BRITISH government scientists at Porton Down are examining a soil sample smuggled out of Syria after a suspected nerve gas attack on rebels in the country's civil war.
The sample was obtained in a covert mission involving MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service.
Experts at the Ministry of Defence's chemical research establishment in Wiltshire, southern England, are testing the soil for traces of sarin nerve agent.
Syrian rebels claimed on Tuesday that they have been attacked with chemical weapons by the Assad regime's forces but have failed to produce any proof.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the world body would investigate the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria, which would amount to a crime against humanity. The investigation could be broader than the Syrian government's request for an independent probe of the purported chemical weapons attack.
The announcement came as Israeli officials said yesterday there was "compelling evidence" that chemical agents were used.
"It's clear, at least to us in Israel, that chemical weapons have been used against civilians by the rebels or the government," said Yuval Steinetz, Israel's Minister for Strategic Affairs, in an interview with Israel's Army Radio.
CBS News quoted an unidentified US official yesterday as saying that the US was not certain that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, although it wasn't ruling out the possibility.