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EU mulls more Syria sanctions after chemical ruling



A picture taken March 22nd, 2017 near the Hama province town of Latamneh shows a displaced Syrian family traveling with their belongings as two opposition fighters on a motorcycle drive past them. A new report blames the Syrian regime for three chemical attacks on the town days later, on March 24th, 25th and 30th. [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

The European Union on Thursday (April 9th) welcomed a report by the global chemical weapons watchdog blaming the Syrian regime for toxic attacks, and said it was ready to consider further sanctions on Damascus.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Wednesday for the first time explicitly blamed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for chemical attacks over the use of sarin and chlorine in 2017.

The EU's diplomatic chief Josep Borrell welcomed the report on behalf of the 27 members of the bloc.

"We fully support the report's findings and note with great concern its conclusions," he said.


A picture taken on April 6th, 2017 shows 40-year-old Hassan Youssef, a victim of a toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, receiving medical care in a hospital in the nearby city of Idlib. [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

"Those identified responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable for these reprehensible acts."

The probe found that in March 2017, Syrian fighter jets dropped the nerve agent sarin on the village of Latamneh in northern rural Hama province and a military helicopter dropped a barrel bomb full of chlorine on the same village.

The OPCW said it could not identify the precise chain of command, but that orders for the attacks must have come from senior Syrian regime commanders.

The report will now to go to the UN among others to decide what further action -- if any -- should be taken.

Borrell said the EU was willing to consider expanding its sanctions against the al-Assad regime.

"The EU has previously imposed restrictive measures on high-level Syrian officials and scientists for their role in the development and use of chemical weapons and is ready to consider introducing further measures as appropriate," he said in a statement.

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