UN demands probe into Syria’s chemical weapons
A top UN official was to visit Syria on Saturday for talks as demands grew for a prompt probe into opposition claims the regime unleashed a chemical...
- Appalled by reports of hundreds of killings
- US Defence Secretary hints at moving forces
- Russia opposes use of force against Asad
- It urges Damascus to cooperate with the UN
- Russia holding talks with UK, France, US
A top UN official was to visit Syria on Saturday for talks as demands grew for a prompt probe into opposition claims the regime unleashed a chemical attack that killed hundreds. US President Barack Obama said the alleged use of chemical weapons was "a big event of grave concern," while Russia hit out at calls for force against its ally Syria.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel strongly suggested the Pentagon was moving forces into place ahead of possible military action against Syria, even as Obama voiced caution. US commanders have nevertheless prepared a range of "options" for Obama if he chooses to proceed with military strikes against Damascus, Hagel told reporters aboard his plane en route to Malaysia. "The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies," Hagel said. "And that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets to be able to carry out different options -- whatever the president might choose.
" Britain accused Damascus of unleashing the weapons and France called for "force" if the claims were confirmed. UN chief Ban Ki-moon stepped up the pressure by announcing that Under Secretary General Angela Kane was headed to Damascus for talks, his spokesman said. Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad said his forces used chemical weapons east and southwest of Damascus in attacks on Wednesday that killed hundreds.
The regime has strongly denied the accusations. Activists released harrowing footage showing unconscious children, people foaming around the mouth and doctors apparently giving them oxygen has triggered revulsion around the world. Russia urged Damascus to cooperate with the UN but dismissed calls for use of force against its ally. The growing alarm was reflected in separate phone conversations that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had with his US, British and French counterparts. Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on the need for an "objective investigation," said the Russian foreign ministry.