BBC, NEW YORK TIMES, AL JAZEERA, AFP
DAMASCUS - As the United States appeared to toughen its stance against Syria, United Nations inspectors were forced Tuesday to postpone their investigation into the sites of the alleged chemical attacks in the suburbs of Damascus, according to the AFP.
The Syrian Foreign Affairs Minister Walid Muallem said his counterparts among the rebel forces could not guarantee security for the UN inspectors in the rebel-controlled area. The 20-member UN team had come under sniper fire on Monday while on their way to the West of the city.
Meanwhile, in the strongest language thus far from the US administration, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the Syrian government on Monday for using chemical weapons against its own people. In an emotional statement, he described the August 21 attack that allegedly killed at least 300 people as a "moral obscenity", according to Al Jazeera.
Kerry seemed to signal Washington's intentions of a military intervention in Syria, according to the BBC. He added that Bashar al-Assad's government must be held accountable. The Syrian authorities have continued denying the use of chemical weapons, blaming the rebel forces for the reported attacks.
According to the New York Times, the inspectors still managed to visit two hospitals on Monday, talk to witnesses and doctors, and collect patient samples. The next inspection is now set for Wednesday.
Other declarations and actions over the past 24 hours appear to signal a growing likelihood of a Western intervention in Syria:
- According to the Guardian, UK warplanes and military hardware have begun arriving at Britain's Akrotiri airbase on Cyprus, less than 100 miles from the Syrian coast, in a sign of increasing preparations for a military strike against the Assad regime in Syria.
- According to Reuters, the British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday that a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria was "absolutely abhorrent" and necessitated action from the international community.
- According to Russia Today, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cast doubts on the veracity of Western claims about the incident. He said that the US and European countries have engineered a media campaign to facilitate a military incursion in Syria. He warned that such an intervention would be a "terrible mistake". Lavrov said Russia had no plans of going to war.
- Following Kerry's statement on Monday, Iran warned the US that military intervention will lead to a conflict which would engulf the region, according to the Guardian.
- The Syrian National Coalition called off the long-delayed peace summit in Geneva after the alleged chemical attack, Russia Today said.
- The US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said on Twitter on Tuesday:
Haunting images of entire families dead in their beds. Verdict is clear: Assad has used CWs against civilians in violation of int'l norm.
— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) August 27, 2013
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John Kerry on August 13 in Brasilia - Photo: O Globo - ZUMA