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Syria: Russia queries British draft resolution

Russia has told other UN Security Council powers that a British draft resolution over an alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack is premature. Damascus residents are stocking essentials, fearing US-led military strikes.

The United States accused Russia on Wednesday of stalling a British-drafted UN Security Council resolution designed to authorize military action against Syria. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said chemical weapons inspectors inside Syria needed more time.

Visiting the Netherlands, Ban said the inspectors were "working very hard, under very, very dangerous circumstances" and would then need to analyze samples. He also urged the council to "use its authority for peace."

His envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi reiterated that "international law" was clear in requiring security council authorization for any military action.

US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Russian "intransigence" had emerged at an informal 75-minute meeting of the five veto powers at the UN headquarters in New York.

One diplomat quoted by the news agency AFP said arguments already made were reiterated. "The Russians and Chinese said they would refer the text to their governments," the diplomat said.

Russia said its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had told British Foreign Secretary William Hague to "wait for the results" from the UN inspection team.

Cameron, Merkel in agreement

Downing Street said British Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet while meeting defense chiefs had agreed the "Assad regime was responsible for the chemical attack near Damascus last week."

Cameron spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday evening and the two agreed there was "sufficient evidence" of Syria's chemical weapons use, making "an international reaction essential."

"Both hope that no member of the [United Nations] Security Council closes their eyes to this crime against humanity and that the appropriate consequences will be agreed to," said Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

Cameron was due to make the case for military action while addressing parliament in London on Thursday.

Second field trip

UN chemical weapons experts completed their second field trip to the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta on Wednesday, looking for evidence of an apparent poison gas attack that residents say killed hundreds of people on 21 August.

The UN inspectors have not validated the claims and concrete proof has not been presented by the United States. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has, however, said the US military is ready to act if President Barack Obama gave the order.

Syria warns of 'graveyard'

Syrian Foreign Minister Wael al-Halqi told state television that foreign military intervention would turn Syria into a "graveyard of the invaders."

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mugdad accused the West of "encouraging" anti-regime rebels to use poison gas, while blaming it on the Assad government, as a pretext for Western intervention.

At the UN, Syria's envoy Bashar Ja'afari said the UN inspectors should return to investigating three other incidents last week in which Syrian troops "inhaled poisonous gas" allegedly released by rebels. Ja'afari gave no other details.

Residents seek shelter

In Damascus on Wednesday, residents stocked up on groceries and bottled water and some left homes close to potential targets, though many doubted it was worth it, according to the news agency Reuters.

"Every street, every neighborhood has some government target. Where do we hide," said an unnamed nurse quoted by Reuters.

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) blamed Asssad's regime for chemical attacks and called for "decisive action in response."

The conflict potential sent oil prices to their highest levels in six months on Wednesday, while share indices fell.

Syria's civil war has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2011 and driven millions from their homes, with many crossing borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and more recently northern Iraq.

ipj,dr/lw (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)