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Russians handed 'evidence of rebel chemical attack'

Syria have handed evidence over to Russia purporting to show rebel involvement

Syria has given Russian diplomats evidence purporting to show that rebels were behind an August 21 chemical weapons attack.

The attack, which the US immediately pinned on the Bashar al-Assad regime without providing any convincing evidence, prompted Western states to threaten a military intervention in Syria.

UN inspectors confirmed that chemical weapons had been used in the Damascus attack, but the team wasn't mandated to apportion blame.

They did provide trajectory details for the rockets fired, which appeared to come from nearby mountains where there are Syrian military bases.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said "connecting the dots provided by these numbers" suggested the rockets had come from a Republican Guard base.

But analyst Josh Lyons admitted that the evidence was "not conclusive."

Many have raised queries as to why the Assad regime would unleash a chemical attack against civilians at a time when they increasingly had the upper hand against rebels and when it carried a clear risk of sparking foreign intervention.

US President Barack Obama has repeatedly said chemical use would be a "red line" justifying a possible strike.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told ITAR-Tass news agency yesterday that Syrian officials had handed over material they claimed showed "rebels participating in the chemical attack."

Mr Ryabkov said his country hadn't drawn any conclusions but he also told Russia Today that Moscow had submitted abundant and credible evidence to the UN security council showing that government troops hadn't fired the weapons.

Russia has complained that the inspectors only focused on the August 21 attack, repeatedly saying that rebels used chemical weapons on March 19.

Mr Ryabkov said that, given the March attack, "we are inclined to treat with great seriousness the material from the Syrian side about the involvement of the rebels" in August.

UN chemical weapons chief inspector Ake Sellstrom said yesterday that his team would be back in Syria "within weeks" to probe other attacks.

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