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United Nations' Syria chemical weapons report "overwhelming," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says

UNITED NATIONS U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that a report on last month's deadly attack in Syria would be "overwhelming" in showing that chemical weapons were used.

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Ban made the statement while giving comments that he thought were not to be quoted but were broadcast on an in-house television channel at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The secretary-general was referring to a report from the U.N. chief weapons inspector, Ake Sellstrom, who announced Friday that his report would be brought to Ban over the weekend. Sellstrom didn't say when the report would be released to the public.

In unusual candor, the secretary-general said that Syrian President Bashar Assad "has committed many crimes against humanity."

The U.N. chief's deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, said that Ban was not referring to the chemical weapons attack but to reports from the Human Rights Council and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The secretary-general's candor shifts the balance because the U.N. has not accused Assad of war crimes during Syria's two-and-a-half-year-long civil war and the recent U.N. inspectors' mandate was to only establish if chemical weapons were used in last month's attack outside Damascus.

Ban said that Assad will be brought to justice and "there will be, surely, the process of accountability when everything is over."

The secretary-general said it was a "failure" that the U.N. couldn't resolve the ongoing conflict, a statement that sent some shock waves around the corridors of U.N. headquarters.

"It's an incredible situation that the Security Council has not been able to adopt any single resolution, even humanitarian, even humanitarian issues, not to mention political and security issues," said Ban. "They are divided. I am very much troubled by this. This is failure by the United Nations."

The developments come as Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, negotiate in Geneva on a potential deal for Syria to place its chemical weapons arsenal under international supervision and eventually dismantle it.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - China, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom - will then try to iron out a U.N. document that codifies the road map that Kerry and Lavrov may present.

That point in the process will be difficult because the U.S. still wants a binding Security Council resolution that packs the punch of a threat of the use of force if the deal collapses and Russia still wants a non-binding statement from the Security Council.

But there is some movement. An agreement by Syria to join the Chemical Weapons Convention is wending its way through the legal offices of the U.N., and Kerry and Lavrov will meet at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later this month.

If all goes well, President Obama, who addresses the General Assembly Sept. 24, will be able to announce the agreement, and an international peace conference may be set to take place in Geneva.

There is, however, a long road between the U.S.-Russia talks and a resolution to the bloody conflict.

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