The United Nations has no evidence that the Sudanese government has used chemical weapons against civilians in the country's Darfur region, a top UN official said Tuesday, noting, however, that the UN does not have access to the areas in question.
The comment came after Amnesty International released a report last week alleging that the Sudanese government had used chemical weapons in Darfur's mountainous Jebel Marra region on at least 30 occasions, reportedly killing up to 250 people, mostly children.
On Tuesday, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the UN Security Council that the peacekeeping mission to Darfur, known as UNAMID, had not "come across" any evidence of chemical weapons use.
"At the same time, as you know, the government of Sudan has denied consistently any access by UNAMID to conflict areas in Jebel Marra and this has prevented the mission from being able to monitor effectively and report on the impact of the fighting," Ladsous said.
He called on the Sudanese government, which is party to the Convention on Chemical Weapons - prohibiting the use of such weapons - to cooperate fully with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in case of a future investigation.
The OPCW said last week in its initial review of the Amnesty International report that it was "not possible ... to draw any conclusions based on the content of the report" without further investigation.
Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN and current president of the Security Council, said members of the council agreed on the need for further verification adding that the council would welcome if the OPCW decided to open a formal investigation.
"If they (OPCW) decide that they want to investigate, we wouldn't mind, that would be their decision to make," Churkin said. "But I don't think it would be appropriate for the Security Council to push [the] OPCW in whatever direction."
Matthew Rycroft, British ambassador to the UN, said he was pleased that the OPCW was "looking into" the allegations, calling it "the right first step."
"It is absolutely crucial that those allegations are properly investigated, and that's what the OPCW is doing," he said.