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US rejects UN accusation of war crimes in Syria

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The US special envoy to Syria on Thursday rejected accusations by UN investigators that air strikes on the US-led coalition could constitute “war crimes.”

“We are very cautious in all military operations,” James Jeffrey said when asked by reporters about the accusations in Geneva, where he was due to meet UN envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen.

“We do not agree with the conclusions,” he said, referring to a UN inquiry report on Syria published Wednesday.

In certain cases, “the (Washington-led international coalition) has not taken the necessary precautions to distinguish between civilians and military objectives,” the investigators report.

The commission, set up by the Human Rights Council in 2011, cited a series of air strikes by the coalition in January in Deir Ezzor, one of which killed 16 civilians.

“There are reasonable reasons to believe that international coalition forces may not have struck a specific military target, or have not done so with the necessary precautions,” she said.

“Indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians constitute a war crime when this occurs irresponsibly,” the commission said.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia, as well as other parties to the conflict, have been repeatedly accused of war crimes.

Pederson held talks in Geneva on Thursday with representatives of the United States, France, Egypt, Jordan, Germany, Britain and Saudi Arabia as he sought to form a committee to draft a new constitution in Syria.

“I hope to receive good news on this subject in the near future,” he told reporters.

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