Syria to let UN inspect 'gas attack' site

Inspectors to be allowed to visit Damascus suburb where hundreds died in an alleged chemical attack.

    United Nations inspectors are to be granted access to the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus, Syrian state TV has said, with the UN saying that the Syrian government has also agreed to observe a ceasefire during the visit.

    It followed an agreement between the Syrian foreign minister and the head of a UN delegation to the country on Sunday. 

    The agreement "is effective immediately and it will allow UN delegation to investigate allegations of using chemical weapons on August 22 in Damascus suburbs", the state TV reported.

    The alleged chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, on Wednesday killed 355 people, according to the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres.

    A UN statement said the inspectors were preparing to conduct "on-site fact-finding activities starting tomorrow, Monday, 26 August".

    A team of UN inspectors arrived in the Syrian capital last week to investigate claims of chemical weapons use by opposition fighters and the Syrian government, which UN officials originally said would last two weeks and cover three sites.

    The Syrian government has denied responsibility for Wednesday's attack and blamed the rebels fighting Assad's forces of the same. The rebels have, however, held the regime forces responsible for the attack.

    The alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb has spurred calls for global action against the Syrian regime.

    US President Barack Obama has been under mounting pressure to act.

    As the opposition Syrian National Council called on major powers to intervene in Syria, Obama on Saturday met senior security officials to consider US options on how to respond to the crisis.

    Earlier, the US  boosted its naval presence in the region, a move which the US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said gave the president greater flexibility. 

    UK newspaper reports

    The front pages of many major British newspapers suggested that Western military intervention to Syria could happen very soon.

    The Daily Mail said that missile strikes were imminent within days while the Financial Times said that Western powers were considering attacks against the Syrian regime's military assets.

    Remarks of William Hague, the British foreign secretary, on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria

    The Independent indicated that the chemical attack in Damascus had been a turning point in the Western attitude towards the Syrian conflict, while the Daily Mirror simply said: "We'll bomb Syria."

    William Hague, the UK foreign secretary, said on Sunday the British government was clear that the Syrian regime carried out the recent chemical attack in the country.

    Meanwhile, Israel on Sunday called for chemical weapons to be "taken out" of Syria.

    Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, called for immediate steps, saying: "Our finger or our hand is always on the pulse. Our finger is on the trigger but is always responsible ... This situation must not continue."

    Syria, however, has said that any US attack on the country would trigger dangerous consequences.

    In an interview with the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV, Omran al-Zoubi, Syria's information minister, said a US attack would spawn more violence in the region.

    "The basic repercussion would be a ball of fire that would burn not only Syria but the whole Middle East," he said.

    "An attack on Syria would be no easy trip."

    In Tehran, Abbas Arakji, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, said that a US military intervention in Syria would "complicate matters".

    "Sending warships will not solve the problems but will worsen the situation," Arakji said in comments carried by Iran's Arabic-language TV Al-Alam.

    He said any such US move does not have international backing and that Iran "rejects military solutions".

    Alexander Lukashevich, Russia's foreign ministry spokesman, warned against military action saying it would be a "tragic mistake". 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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