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syria UN has emergency meeting on attack



Published: Thu, August 22, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS

The U.N. Security Council called Wednesday for “a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation” of the latest allegation of chemical-weapons use in Syria.

The council backed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s determination to ensure a “thorough investigation” of the purported attack on the eastern suburbs of Damascus that killed at least 100 people.

U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said earlier that the secretary-general was “shocked” at Wednesday’s purported use of chemical weapons and wants all reported incidents investigated.

During a two-hour closed-door meeting, diplomats said Russia and China, which support the Syrian government, blocked a stronger press statement supported by Britain, France, the United States and others.

But Russia and China agreed that the council president could sum up the session with “press elements” — close to the weakest response from the U.N.’s most powerful body, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

Argentina’s U.N. Ambassador Maria Cristina Perceval, the current council president, told reporters that there was “strong concern” about the latest allegations of chemical- weapons use “and a general sense that there must be clarity on what happened.”

Syrian anti-government activists accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of carrying out a toxic-gas attack that killed at least 100 people, including many children as they slept. The government denied using chemical weapons.

Perceval said council members “welcomed the determination of the secretary-general to ensure a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation.”

“All council members agreed that any use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances is a violation of international law,” she said. “There was also an agreement for a strong call for a cessation of hostilities and a cease-fire ... [and] the need for immediate humanitarian assistance to the victims.”

The attack coincided with the visit to Syria by a 20-member U.N. chemical- weapons team that has a mandate only to investigate three previous allegations of chemical-weapons use.

Before the council meeting, a letter drafted by Britain and France was sent to the secretary-general requesting that the team launch “an urgent investigation ... as expeditiously as possible” into Wednesday’s incident as well.

Britain’s deputy U.N. ambassador Philip Parham said about 35 countries signed the letter, including the United States.


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