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US and allies ‘all set’ to attack Syria today

US and allies ‘all set’  to attack Syria today
Highlights

The US and its allies built their case for likely military action against the regime in war-torn Syria over alleged chemical weapons attacks, despite...

  • British PM discusses Syria action with Obama
  • UN envoy to Syria says chemical 'substance' used
  • Ban urges Security Council to unite for peace
  • Russia warns strikes will destabilise region
  • Russia evacuates more than 100 citizens
  • Attack on Syria to spell 'disaster', says Khamenei

Damascus (AFP): The US and its allies built their case for likely military action against the regime in war-torn Syria over alleged chemical weapons attacks, despite stern warnings from Russia. British Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken to US President Barack Obama over phone against the backdrop of both countries considering military intervention in Syria.

Downing Street said Cameron heard the "latest on US thinking" on the issue, ahead of a National Security Council meeting and a House of Commons vote on Thursday. The ground for a military intervention was set out by US Vice President Joe Biden, who for the first time said last week's attack, thought to have killed hundreds, could only have been perpetrated by President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Senior officials in Washington told NBC news that possible strikes against targets in Syria could take place as early as Thursday.

As the West inched closer to military intervention, UN inspectors in Damascus resumed their mission to investigate a site of the alleged chemical weapons attacks on the outskirts of Damascus. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on a divided UN Security Council to unite and bring peace to Syria, as the West prepared for possible military strikes against Damascus.

"Syria is the biggest challenge of war and peace in the world. The body entrusted with maintaining international peace and security cannot be missing in action," Ban said, referring to the Security Council. Evidence suggests that some kind of chemical "substance" was used in Syria that may have killed more than 1,000 people, but any military strike in response must first gain UN Security Council approval, the UN's special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said.

Brahimi spoke to reporters in Geneva as a UN inspection team was investigating the alleged poison gas attack near Damascus on August 21 and momentum built for Western military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in the civil war that he called the most serious crisis facing the international community.

Russia warned the West that military strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could destabilise the entire Middle East, as it again denied his government was behind a chemical weapons attack. Moscow's strong opposition to the growing possibility of Western military action against the Assad regime is opening the way for a major new diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West.

Russia evacuated 116 Russian citizens and nationals of other ex-Soviet states on two planes belonging to the emergencies ministry which flew them from the Syrian port city of Latakia, the ministry said. The first plane, an Ilyushin-76 cargo plane, brought back 89 people wanting to leave the conflict-torn country and landed at Moscow's Domodedovo airport late on Tuesday.

Any military intervention by the United States against Tehran's ally Syria will spell "disaster" for the region, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned. "The US intervention will be a disaster for the region," Khamenei, the Islamic republic's most powerful authority, told a meeting with the cabinet of President Hassan Rowhani, state television reported.

NYT, Twitter hacked by pro-Syria group

Washington (PTI): The websites of the New York Times, the Huffington Post and Twitter were hacked by a group known as the Syrian Electronic Army which posted messages supporting the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "Our website was unavailable to users in the United States for a period of time. The outage was the result of an external attack on our domain name registrar, and we are at work on fully restoring service," The NYT said in a message posted on its website.

The NYT chief information officer Marc Frons sent the same update internally to employees at 4:20 pm (local time) and advised them not to send out sensitive emails "until this situation is resolved," according to a statement from the NYT.The attack on America's major media organisations comes as the US weighs a limited military strike on Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own people.

Frons said the attack was carried out by a group known as "the Syrian Electronic Army or someone trying very hard to be them". The Syrian Electronic Army is a group of hackers who support President Assad. The NYT website first went down after 3 pm (local time); once service was restored, the hackers quickly disrupted the site again. Shortly after 6 pm, Frons said that "we believe that we are on the road to fixing the problem."

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