There is evidence to suggest that some sort of chemical “substance” was used in an attack in Syria last week that killed hundreds of people, the United Nations’ and the Arab League’s special representative to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi confirmed on Wednesday, adding that any international military response must first be approved by the UN Security Council.
Brahimi was speaking at a press conference in Geneva as a UN team of inspectors arrived in Ghoutta, outside the capital Damascus, where the alleged attack took place on August 21, Al-Jazeera reported.
“With what has happened on the 21st of August last week, it does seem that some kind of substance was used that killed a lot of people: hundreds, definitely more than a hundred, some people say 300, some people say 600, maybe 1,000, maybe more than 1,000 people,” Brahimi said.
“This was of course unacceptable. This is outrageous. This confirms how dangerous the situation in Syria is and how important for the Syrians and the international community to really develop the political will to address this issue seriously, and look for a solution for it,” he said.
The UN envoy addressed talks in recent days of an international armed response to the Bashar Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons, cautioning against action without UN approval from the 15-nation Security Council, whose five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — each have veto power. Russia and China have remained staunch allies of the embattled Syrian president as the civil war rages on, blocking any meaningful action from being approved by the UN body.
“I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council. That is what international law says,” Brahimi said in Geneva.
“I must say that I do know that President Obama and the American administration are not known to be trigger-happy. What they will decide I don’t know. But certainly international law is very clear — the Security Council has to be brought in,” he added.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon urged for more time for UN inspectors to conduct their work and for a diplomatic solution in Syria.
“It is essential to establish the facts. A UN investigation team is now on the ground to do just that. Just days after the attack, they have collected valuable samples and interviewed victims and witnesses. The team needs time to do its job, Give peace a chance, give diplomacy a chance, stop fighting and start talking,” the UN chief said at a meeting at the Hague on Wednesday
“Let them conclude their work for four days, and then we will have to analyze scientifically with experts and then I think we will have to report to the Security Council for any actions,” he added.
Britain is due to submit a draft resolution to the Security Council condemning the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, and demanding that “all necessary measures” be taken to protect civilian lives.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a series of tweets on Wednesday that the UN must “live up to its responsibilities on Syria,” and that “any response wound have to be legal, proportionate & designed to deter further outrages.”
1/3 We've always said we want the UN Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on Syria. Today they have an opportunity to do that
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) August 28, 2013
The use of chemical weapons in Syria is wrong – and any response wound have to be legal, proportionate & designed to deter further outrages
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) August 27, 2013
The Obama administration has indicated it will present evidence — possibly as early as Thursday — of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime that would justify military action.