Syria: UN Team Examining Site, Assad Warns US
AL JAZEERA, BBC, NEW YORK TIMES, LE MONDE (France), IZVESTIYA (Russia)
DAMASCUS - As pressure mounted for a strong Western response against the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, United Nations inspectors were heading Monday to the site of last week's suspected chemical attack in the outskirts of the Syrian capital.
Both the Syrian government and rebel forces have agreed to a ceasefire during the visit, according to Al Jazeera.
The UN team, made up of 20 inspectors, will attempt to determine whether chemical weapons were used by taking soil, blood, urine and tissue samples for laboratory testing, according to the BBC. The team, however, is unlikely to be able to determine who was responsable for the attack. The same inspectors have been in Syria since August 18 in order to look into three other alleged chemical attacks.
After Wednesday's attack, which reportedly killed at least 300 people including scores of children, a growing number of foreign governments have criticized Assad's government for taking too long to allow access to the UN team. Over the weekend, Western leaders appeared to be moving toward a coordinated response to events in Syria:
- The White House said there is little doubt Syrian forces used chemical weapons in the attack, according to the ItwItw">New York Times.
- UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that action could be taken without UN approval if there was "great humanitarian need" in Syria, according to the BBC.
- Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said around 30 countries were engaged in discussions on how to act on the Syrian case if the UN cannot agree.
- According to Al Jazeera, French President François Hollande told Barack Obama on Sunday that "everything was consistent" with the conclusion that the Syrian government was responsable for the attack. France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said outside powers would negotiate a "proportionate response" in the "days to come", according to Le Monde.
- The US has bolstered its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, while US, UK and their allies' military leaders are meeting in Jordan.
- Assad has warned the US against military intervention, stating it would end in failure, "just like in all the previous wars they waged, starting with Vietnam and up to our days," he told the Russian newspaper Izvestiya on Monday.
- Syria's ally Russia welcomed the decision to allow UN inspectors onto the alleged attack site, but warned the West against jumping to conclusions, the BBC said.