BEIRUT: The government of Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons in attacks on Syrian civilians, the United Nations has confirmed in a report.
In its clearest apportioning of blame to date, the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), has concluded after a year of investigation that the regime used chlorine gas on its population.
The report identified two incidents in Idlib province in which the Assad regime unleashed the gas - on April 21, 2014 and March 16, 2015. At least three children died and hundreds were take to hospital with breathing problems and burns.
The panel also found that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) "was the only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulphur mustard" in an attack on the town of Marea in northern Aleppo in 2015.
While chlorine is not banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, its use as a weapon against civilians is forbidden. Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, said: "It is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people."
Mr Price said that the United States will seek accountability at the UN. The UN's Security Council (UNSC) is due to discuss the report on Tuesday.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a chemical weapons expert who took soil samples in 2014 from villages in Idlib, said: "At last we have the unequivocal evidence of these chemical attacks and at last the UN have felt they can attribute blame to Assad and Isil.
"In this new determined spirit by the UN, I hope the UNSC will take demonstrative action when it discusses the findings on Tuesday."