Syria gas ‘kills 100s,’ Security Council meets
Syria’s opposition accused government forces of gassing hundreds of people on Wednesday by firing rockets that released deadly fumes over rebel-held Damascus suburbs, killing men, women and children as they slept.
With the death toll estimated between 500 and 1,300, what would be the world’s most lethal chemical weapons attack since the 1980s prompted an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York.
The council did not explicitly demand a U.N. investigation of the incident, although it said “clarity” was needed and welcomed U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon’s calls for a prompt investigation by the U.N. inspection team in Syria, led by Ake Sellstrom.
An earlier Western-drafted statement submitted to the council, seen by Reuters, was not approved. The final version of the statement was watered down to accommodate objections from Russia and China, diplomats said. Moscow and Beijing have vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Assad.
Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said the allegations were “illogical and fabricated”. President Bashar al-Assad’s officials have said they would never use poison gas against Syrians. The United States and European allies believe Assad’s forces have used small amounts of sarin before, hence the current U.N. visit.
Immediate international action is likely to be limited, with the divisions among major powers that have crippled efforts to quell 2 1/2 years of civil war still much in evidence. (Source: Reuters)