NATO chief says ‘firm response’ needed to Syria chemical attack

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NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday that a firm international response is needed to last month’s chemical weapons attack in Syria, adding that he is “personally convinced” of the Syrian regime’s usage of chemical weapons.

“We believe that these unspeakable actions which claimed the lives of hundreds of men, women and children cannot be ignored,” Rasmussen told a news conference, according to Reuters.

“I think there is an agreement that we need a firm international response in order to avoid that chemical attacks take place in the future. It would send, I would say, a dangerous signal to dictators all over the world if we stand idly by and don’t react,” he said.

“The aim of the response should be to send a very clear message ... that you cannot do that [use chemical weapons] without a very firm international reaction,” he said, according to AFP.

Any military action, however, “would be very short, sharp, tailored,” Rasmussen said, stating the importance of a political process to resolve the Syrian civil war.

NATO’s 28 members, led by the United States would have to decide what specific military response they might make, said Rasmussen.

“Personally, I am not only convinced that a chemical attack has taken place...I am also convinced that the Syrian regime is responsible,” said Rasmussen, adding that there was “concrete” evidence proving the Syrian regime’s role in the attacks that killed nearly 1,500 people last month.

Russian lawmakers will ask U.S. Congress not to approve military strikes on Syria, Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the upper house of parliament told President Vladimir Putin on Monday, according to Reuters.

“I think if we manage to establish a dialogue with our partners in the U.S. Congress ... we could possibly better understand each other, and we hope that the U.S. Congress will occupy a balanced position in the end and, without strong arguments in place ... will not support the proposal on use of force in Syria,” said Matviyenko.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that information the U.S. showed Moscow blaming the Syrian regime for the alleged chemical weapons attack was “absolutely unconvincing,” according to the Associated Press.

Lavrov said that “there was nothing specific” in the evidence, which included “no geographic coordinates, no names, no proof that the tests were carried out by the professionals.”

The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons, saying that U.S. evidence of them doing so is “fabricated.”
Approximately 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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