Security Council seeks ‘clarity’ on chemical weapons reports in Syria

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The U.N. Security Council said on Wednesday that it is seeking “clarity” on reports suggesting that Syrian regime forces killed 1,300 people using chemical weapons.

“There must be clarity on what happened and the situation must be followed carefully,” Argentina’s envoy Maria Cristina Perceval said after the council met behind closed doors, adding that members “welcomed the determination of the secretary general to ensure a thorough, impartial investigation.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office had said he was “shocked” by the reports and that U.N. weapons experts in Syria to probe previous allegations were in discussions with Damascus, according to AFP.

Security Council members France, Britain, the United States, Luxembourg and South Korea had called for the meeting, which was held behind closed doors.

Diplomats said the joint letter cited “credible reports of the use of chemical weapons.”

“We urge you to do all you can to ensure that the mission has urgent access to all relevant sites and sources of information,” the letter said.

The United States called for immediate access to the site of the alleged chemical attack.

“We are working urgently to gather additional information,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest in a statement expressing deep concern over the reports.

International action was expected to be limited, with permanent U.N. member Russia standing firmly by the Assad’s regime.

Russia hastened to back up denials from the Assad’s administration by saying it looked like a rebel “provocation” to discredit him, according to Reuters.

Neighboring Israel’s Channel 10 television quoted Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon as telling reporters that Syria had used chemical weapons, and not for the first time.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces a “red line” that already in June triggered more U.S. aid to the rebels. But previous, smaller and disputed cases of their deployment have not brought the all-out military intervention that rebel leaders have sought to break a stalemate.

If confirmed, a major gas attack could increase pressure on Obama to do more to support rebels whose links to militant Islam have helped dampen Western enthusiasm for their cause.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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