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U.S. Says Syria Not Qualified To Head UN Disarmament Forum

U.S. disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood

A top U.S. official says Syria is not qualified to serve as head of the UN's Conference on Disarmament as scheduled next month in light of its alleged chemical attack last weekend on residents of a Damascus suburb.

"Syria has neither the international credibility nor any moral authority" to lead the forum, "given what they have done to their own people with use of chemical weapons," the U.S. ambassador to the disarmament conference, Robert Wood, said at the United Nations on April 9.

The United States is examining "how best to deal with" Syria's scheduled presidency of the forum, he said.

The conference's presidency is rotated among 65 member states based on alphabetical order. Syria is to take over from Switzerland on May 28 for four weeks.

The disarmament conference produced the treaty that banned chemical weapons -- a treaty that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims to be honoring but which the United States and European states say Assad has repeatedly violated during his country's seven-year civil war.

The most recent alleged violation was over the weekend in the Damascus suburb of Douma. where war monitors say 40 people were killed by what appeared to be an attack with a chlorine-like gas.

"The Assad regime's documented use of chemical weapons remains the most serious violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the treaty's 20-year history," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of United Nations Watch.

Neuer said allowing Syria to assume the presidency of the disarmament body "at a time when Syria is gassing its own men, women, and children to death" would "simply shock the conscience of humanity."

Based on reporting by AP