Skip to main content

Source: U.N. report on Syria should be ready early next week

By Matt Smith, CNN
September 12, 2013 -- Updated 1046 GMT (1846 HKT)
  • Inspectors could present Syria findings by Monday or Tuesday, sources say
  • Government troops are "almost certainly responsible" for the August attack, rights group says
  • Syrian government denies its forces used poison gas
  • Top U.S. and Russian officials to discuss disarmament

(CNN) -- U.N. weapons inspectors are expected to report their findings regarding a chemical attack in Syria early next week, sources said Wednesday, but a leading human rights group is already pointing its finger at government troops.

The inspectors collected evidence from the site of the August 21 attack outside Damascus, and laboratories have been processing the material for more than a week. A diplomatic source told CNN that the findings would be presented on Monday, while another source said the report would "likely" be presented Monday or Tuesday.

Earlier Wednesday, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that there was no timeline for the inspectors' report.

"They are going about their work now," Haq said. "Once they are done, they will present it to the secretary-general."

U.N. report: Abuses on both sides of Syrian civil war

The Obama administration has asked Congress to delay voting on authorizing military action in Syria, but the White House will still push the idea in case diplomacy fails. Senate leaders Harry Reid, D-Nevada, left, and Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, control the process and will determine the initial language and format for any vote in the chamber. The Obama administration has asked Congress to delay voting on authorizing military action in Syria, but the White House will still push the idea in case diplomacy fails. Senate leaders Harry Reid, D-Nevada, left, and Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, control the process and will determine the initial language and format for any vote in the chamber.
Key players on the Hill in Syria debate
Photos: Key players on the Hill in Syria debate Photos: Key players on the Hill in Syria debate
Disarming the al-Assad regime
U.S. credibility and the use of force
What's Russia's motive in Syria?

In addition, the report could be delayed amid diplomatic efforts to forestall threatened U.S. military action against Syria. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is headed for a two-day meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Switzerland over Moscow's plan to put the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal under international control.

Washington accuses Syrian government troops of using the nerve gas sarin in a large-scale attack in the suburbs of Damascus, killing more than 1,400 people -- including hundreds of children. President Barack Obama told Americans on Tuesday night that he would put off punitive strikes on Syria to pursue the diplomatic opening from Russia.

Syria's government has denied using chemical weapons, arguing its troops came under chemical attack by rebel fighters.

The U.N. team that investigated the attack is tasked with confirming whether chemical weapons were used, but its mandate doesn't include assigning blame for the attack. But the American position got some support this week from Human Rights Watch, which concluded that government forces "were almost certainly responsible" and suggested U.N. inspectors saw some of the same evidence it did.

The U.S.-based human rights group said its experts reviewed video and photos from the scene, including pictures from one source who photographed and measured remnants of rockets left at the scene. The weapons included Soviet-era 140mm rockets and an apparently Syrian-built projectile capable of holding up to 60 liters (16 gallons) of chemical agents, a Tuesday report from the group noted.

Human Rights Watch used video uploaded to the Internet and photos provided by Syrian activists as part of their review. Some of those photos included detailed measurements of a 330mm rocket so far seen only in the hands of government forces -- a model "compatible, and perhaps specifically designed, for the delivery of chemical agents."

"U.N. inspectors were also videotaped inspecting some of the same rocket remnants during their on-site visit, further confirming that the rockets are located at the scene of the attacks," the report notes.

Did Obama answer these five questions about Syria?

All eyes turn to U.S.-Russia talks in Geneva

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh and Omar Jimenez contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0823 GMT (1623 HKT)
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0422 GMT (1222 HKT)
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0933 GMT (1733 HKT)
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT)
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.