United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war.
Ban told the UN General Assembly on December 13 that the international community had a moral and political responsibility to deter such weapons, whose use in war has been prohibited for decades by a global treaty.
"Today, I note with deep concern that the team collected evidence and information corroborating allegations that chemical weapons were used on several occasions at multiple sites against both civilians and military targets," Ban said.
The UN chief was speaking one day after a team of UN inspectors confirmed that chemical arms have been used at least once during the conflict, and probably at four other locations in Syria.
The inspectors did not have a mandate to determine whether government forces or rebels used chemical weapons. The Syrian government and the opposition have accused each other of using chemical arms, and both have denied it.
World outrage over the sarin poison-gas attack on August 21 in Ghouta led to the U.S.-Russian agreement that compelled the Syrian government to agree to destroy its chemical-weapons stockpiles under international supervision by mid-2014.
The Ghouta attack killed hundreds of people, and triggered threats from the United States to intervene militarily against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The United States has been a main backer of what it describes as “moderate” rebels seeking to overthrow the Syrian regime. Washington has sought to distance itself from Islamist extremist forces fighting on the rebel side.
In his remarks to the General Assembly, Secretary-General Ban said that in addition to Ghouta, evidence collected by the inspectors indicated that chemical weapons probably had been used at least four other times in the conflict this year.
Those four attacks -- at Khan al-Assal, Jobar, Saraqeb and Ashrafiat Sahnaya -- targeted both civilians and government troops.
The inspectors said they could not corroborate allegations that chemical arms had been used at two other locations.
Ban noted that the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons.
Ban also renewed his call for the warring parties in Syria to negotiate an end to the conflict, which began in March 2011.
The UN is sponsoring peace talks between the government and opposition that are due to take place in the last week of January in Switzerland.
International powers, such as the United States and Russia, which support different sides in the conflict, are also expected to attend the “Geneva 2” conference, which would be a follow-up to a 2012 meeting in the Swiss city.
The Syrian war has left more than 100,000 people dead and forced millions of people to flee their homes, according to UN officials.
With reporting by AP, dpa, and AFP