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Use of alleged chemical weapons : Syria allows UN probe

Use of alleged chemical weapons : Syria allows UN probe
Highlights

Syria has agreed to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to visit the site of an alleged chemical attack in Damascus. A team of UN inspectors,...

The agreement comes after it warned US against taking military action against them, saying it would ‘create a ball of fire that will inflame the Middle East’

  • Iran also warned US not to cross the red line, saying it would have severe consequences
  • US, UK say they are "gravely concerned" about signs of alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria
  • Rebel groups claimed a chemical attack was carried out by Assad's forces, more than 1,000 people died

Damascus (Agencies) Syria has agreed to allow United Nations weapons inspectors to visit the site of an alleged chemical attack in Damascus. A team of UN inspectors, currently based in Damascus, is preparing to carry out a fact-finding mission at the site on Monday. Rebel groups have claimed the attack was carried out by Assad's forces and that more than 1,000 people had died. The Syrian regime has denied the allegations.

The agreement comes after Syria warned the US against taking military action against the regime, saying it would "create a ball of fire that will inflame the Middle East". Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama say they are "gravely concerned" about signs that an alleged chemical weapons attack took place in Syria.

The two leaders spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper by telephone on Saturday night as calls increased for UN investigators to be allowed access to the site of the alleged attack. The US President and his top advisers are continuing to explore options for responding to the attack, with the White House saying there is "very little doubt" the regime has used chemical weapons against its citizens.

But in remarks released by Syria's official SANA news agency, Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said that any US-led military action would be "no picnic"."US military intervention will create a very serious fallout and a ball of fire that will inflame the Middle East," Zoabi said. Iran has also warned the US not to cross the "red line" on Syria, saying it would have "severe consequences", according to the Fars news agency.

Meanwhile, the al Qaeda linked Syrian jihadist group Al Nusra Front has also vowed to carry out strikes against villages from Assad's community as revenge for the chemical attacks. "The Alawite villages will pay the price for each chemical rocket that struck our people in Damascus," Al Nusra front chief Abu Mohammed al Jawlani said in an audio message posted on his Twitter account. Mr Jazayeri was reacting to statements made by Western officials regarding the possibility of military intervention in Syria, according to Fars.

Earlier, Iranian Press TV reported that Damascus had told Tehran it would allow inspectors to visit the site of the alleged chemical attack.A Downing Street spokesperson stressed that any significant use of chemical weapons would merit a "serious response". The spokesperson added: "The fact that President Assad has failed to co-operate with the UN suggests that the regime has something to hide."They reiterated that

significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response from the international community and both have tasked officials to examine all the options."They agreed that it is vital that the world upholds the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons and deters further outrages."

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the American military is ready to exercise "options" on Syria should force be called for, but he declined to say what that action might be.He is under mounting pressure to act over the alleged use of chemical weapons, which humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders said had killed 355 people due to "neurotoxic" symptoms. The group says it has treated more than 3,500 people showing symptoms of exposure to a "neurotoxic" agent.

Christopher Stokes from the charity told Sky News: "The situation (on the ground in Syria) is quite confusing."We've spent the last three to four days in contact with Syrian doctors that we've been working with for six months in and around Damascus to try and piece together what happened last Wednesday. "Basically what they’ve reported to us are consistent signs of the same symptoms across a large number of patients that would indicate a large scale exposure to a neurotoxic agent."

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