Western powers to push for United Nations resolution on Syria

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Western powers readied on Tuesday to push for a United Nations resolution to rid Syria of chemical weapons, one day after a report by the world body describing a "chilling" sarin gas attack there.

U.N. chemical inspectors confirmed on Monday the use of sarin gas in the Aug. 21 attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, adding that the chemical agent was carried by rockets.

As was anticipated, the report did not say who was responsible for the attack in the rebel-held Damascus suburb.

“On the basis of the evidence obtained during the investigation of the Ghouta incident, the conclusion is that chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale,” the report, drawn up by chief U.N. investigator Ake Sellstrom of Sweden, stated.

“In particular, the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used,” it said, according to Reuters.

The weather conditions on Aug. 21 ensured that as many people as possible were injured or killed, according to the report.

Temperatures were falling between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., it said, which meant that air was not moving upwards but downwards toward the ground.

“Chemical weapons use in such meteorological conditions maximizes their potential impact as the heavy gas can stay close to the ground and penetrate into lower levels of buildings and constructions where many people were seeking shelter,” the report added.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed a plan on Saturday under which Syria's chemical weapons would be eliminated by mid-2014.

Russia has agreed the plans must be backed by a Security Council resolution but rejects any move to include the threat of force into a U.N. text.

Lavrov said such threats could ruin the possibility of a peace conference to solve the 30-month-old conflict, in which more than 110,000 people have died, according to activists.

Kerry was due to meet Thursday to discuss the issue with his counterpart from China, which has welcomed the agreement but has sided with Russia in its resolve to veto any U.N. Security Council resolution against Syria.

Britain, France and the United States on Monday agreed to increase their backing for rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The three powers also agreed at talks in Paris that Assad would face consequences if he fails to comply with a U.N. resolution setting out a timetable for the handover of Syria’s chemical weapons to international control.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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