Syria crisis: US has evidence that sarin gas was used in alleged attack, claims John Kerry

Obama administration says tests from emergency workers bolster case for attack

The Obama administration has evidence that sarin was used by Bashar al-Assad’s regime during the attack on a Damascus suburb on 21 August, which killed more than 1,400 people, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said on Sunday. It was the first time the US has named the chemical weapon that it accuses the Syrians of using.

The US cited new evidence as the United Nations team sent to Syria last month to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons prepared to send its samples to laboratories.

Mr Kerry, who said sarin had been identified in tests on samples taken from emergency workers responding to the attack, declared that the case for military action in Syria was growing “more powerful by the day”.

He told CNN’s State of the Union show on Sunday morning: “Blood and hair samples that have come to us through an appropriate chain of custody from east Damascus from first responders – it has tested positive for signatures of sarin.” In similar comments on other US networks, he said that as the evidence stacks up the administration was confident Congress would authorise the use of US force in Syria in response to the attack.

But he also reiterated Barack Obama’s assertion on Saturday that the administration had the “right” to respond no matter what Congress does, leaving open the possibility of intervention even if politicians object when they return from their summer recess on 9 September.

At the United Nations, the  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke on the telephone with Dr Ake Sellstrom, the head of the UN team that returned to The Hague over the weekend after collecting samples from Syria.

The samples will be transferred to laboratories today and the  Secretary-General asked Dr Sellstrom to expedite the analysis process and report the results to him as soon as possible, the UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters at the international body’s headquarters in New York. He also disclosed that two Syrian officials were observing the process, as per the guidelines followed by the UN team.

Asked when the results might be available, Mr Nesirky said: “We are not giving a timeline.”

The UN did, however, assert that its inspection team was “uniquely capable of establishing in an impartial and credible manner” the substance of claims regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Earlier, the focus shifted from the possibility of an imminent US military strike on Syria to the provenance and credibility of the evidence on chemical weapons when Mr Obama said he would seek Congressional approval for any action.

While the Senate is expected to back an attack on Mr Assad’s regime, uncertainty remains about the stance of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

As his administration works to shore up support in Washington, Mr Obama will later this week come face to face with one of the chief international opponents of intervention: the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, a key backer of the Assad regime. Both leaders will be in attendance at the G-20 heads of government meeting in St Petersburg on Thursday and Friday.

While Mr Obama has publicly chided Russia for blocking the UN Security Council from acting on Syria, Mr Putin has questioned the wisdom of intervention, saying this weekend: “We need to remember what’s happened in the last decade, the number of times the United States has initiated armed conflicts in various parts of the world. Has it solved a single problem?”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas