The United States believes there “should be no doubt” the Syrian government are responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack carried out last week. Foreign leaders continued to formulate their responses on Tuesday.
Syrian opposition fighters have claimed that more than 1,300 people died in the attack last Wednesday, allegedly conducted using gas-filled rockets.
Bashar al-Assad's Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons. The regime warned through Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Tuesday that it had the “means to defend ourselves," should foreign troops intervene in the country.
But US Press Secretary Jay Carney told journalists there "should be no doubt, for anyone who approaches this logically, that the Syrian regime is responsible for the use of chemical weapons on August 21 outside Damascus."
Of an intelligence report into the alleged attack, Carney said he believed “you could expect it this week,” suggesting the US would publish more information it claims to possess. The spokesman said a response from US President Barack Obama would come in time.
"When the president has an announcement to make, he'll make it," Carney said.
Other leaders have been less reticent. French President Francois Hollande said his government was “ready to punish those who took the heinous decision to gas innocents.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron called an emergency parliamentary vote for Thursday to decide what his government's response would be: "This is not about wars in the Middle East; this is not even about the Syrian conflict. It's about the use of chemical weapons and making sure as a world we deter their use,” Cameron said.
Italy Foreign Minister Emma Bonino labelled the alleged attack a “war crime” but stressed that they would not be part of any responsive military reaction without authorization from the United Nations Security Council. This would require approval, or an abstention, from all five permanent Security Council members - a seemingly unlikely scenario given Russia's support of Assad.
Inspectors' work halted until Wednesday
Earlier on Tuesday, a team of United Nations chemical weapons inspectors was denied the opportunity to continue their research into the alleged attack. Al-Moallem blamed rebels for refusing to guarantee the convoy's safety, a claim the rebels disputed.
The investigative team has suffered several setbacks, starting with the delay until Sunday before it was first authorized to visit the site of the latest alleged chemical attack.
The team's convoy then came under sniper fire when they tried to reach a field hospital on Monday. The government and rebels blamed each other for this attack; the UN appealed to both sides to let their staff work in safety.
ph/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)