26 August 2013, 11:51

West to decide on Syria response in 'coming days' - France

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The West will decide in the coming days on a response to the Syria crisis after allegations the Damascus regime used chemical weapons in a deadly attack last week, France's foreign minister said Monday.

 

Asked on French radio about a possible reaction with "force", Laurent Fabius said a decision had not yet been taken, adding: "We have to assess the reactions... and that will be decided upon in the coming days."

Syria's opposition says more than 1,300 people died when toxic gases were unleashed last Wednesday as regime forces bombarded rebel zones east and southwest of Damascus.

But the Syrian regime has angrily denied being behind the alleged attack, and has warned the United States of "failure" if it decides to attack the war-torn country.

Washington and its Western allies have pointed the finger of blame at Bashar al-Assad's regime, with French President Francois Hollande saying "everything was consistent" with the conclusion that Damascus was behind the alleged attack.

"The options are open. The only option that I do not envisage is to do nothing," Fabius told Europe 1 radio.He said the existence of a "chemical massacre" had been established and that Assad was responsible.

"A reaction is needed, that's where we are now. There is a duty to react," he added.

Recent comments by the White House and a US diplomatic offensive have fuelled speculation that the United States may be getting ready to order limited military action in Syria.

On Monday, UN experts were due to inspect the site of the alleged attack after being given the green light by the Syrian regime.

Britain says Syria response possible without without full UN backing

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday it would be possible to respond to chemical weapons use in Syria without the unanimous backing of the United Nations Security Council.

"Is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity on the UN Security Council? I would argue yes it is otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, such crimes, and I don't think that's an acceptable situation," Hague said on BBC radio.

Pressure for international action in Syria is mounting in the wake of an alleged gas attack near Damascus last week which activists said killed hundreds of people.

Asked about the possibility of military strikes this week, Hague said: "I'm not going to rule anything in or out, I'm not going to speculate about that in public."

"It is possible to take actions based on great humanitarian need and humanitarian distress, it is possible to do that under many scenarios," he said.

"We, the US and other countries including France are very clear that we can't allow the idea in the 21st century that chemical weapons can be used with impunity, but I can't go into the military options at the moment."

Turkey would join coalition against Syria, says Foreign Minister

Turkey would join any international coalition against Syria even if a wider consensus on action cannot be reached at the UN Security Council, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying on Monday.

"We always prioritise acting together with the international community, with United Nations decisions. If such a decision doesn't emerge from the UN Security Council, other alternatives would come onto the agenda," Davutoglu told the Milliyet daily.

"Currently 36-37 countries are discussing these alternatives. If a coalition is formed against Syria in this process, Turkey would take its place in this coalition."

'Every hour counts' for UN chemical arms probe on Syria - Ban Ki-moon

UN chief Ban Ki Moon said on Monday there was no time to waste as UN experts prepared to investigate a suspected Syrian chemical attack, with Washington suggesting the probe was already too late.

"Every hour counts. We cannot afford any more delays," Mr Ban told reporters in Seoul, hours before a UN team was due to inspect the site of last week's alleged chemical attack near Damascus.

The Syrian authorities green-lighted the inspection on Sunday, but US officials said it was too little, too late, arguing that persistent shelling of the site in recent days had "corrupted" the site.

"The world is watching Syria," the secretary general said, stressing once again that the UN experts must be allowed to conduct a "full, thorough and unimpeded" investigation.

Britain says Syria chemical attack evidence may already be destroyed

Britain said on Sunday that evidence of a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus could have already been destroyed ahead of UN inspectors visiting the site.

"We have to be realistic now about what the UN team can achieve," Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters.

"The fact is that much of the evidence could have been destroyed by that artillery bombardment. Other evidence could

Voice of Russia, AFP, Reuters

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