Ban: Syria chemical attack a "crime against humanity"

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Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon speaks at a breakfast meeting hosted by Diplomatic Corps in South Korea in Seoul on 23 August 2013. (Photo: AFP - Jung Yeon-Je)

Published Friday, August 23, 2013

The use of chemical weapons in Syria would constitute a "crime against humanity," UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Friday, adding there was "no time to lose" in probing alleged attacks which the opposition says killed hundreds.

Ban described reports of the incidents near Damascus on Wednesday as "very alarming and shocking" and urged the government to allow a United Nations inspection team, already on the ground in Syria, to begin an investigation without delay.

Footage distributed by activists, showing unconscious children, people foaming around the mouth and doctors apparently administering oxygen to help them breathe, has triggered revulsion around the world.

"Any use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anybody, under any circumstances, would violate international law," Ban said at an event in Seoul. "Such a crime against humanity should result in serious consequences for the perpetrator."

"There is no time to waste," Ban said, adding that he had instructed his envoy for disarmament affairs, Angela Kane, to travel to Damascus immediately.

"I can think of no good reason why any party – either government or opposition forces – would decline this opportunity to get to the truth of the matter."

The United States said it has yet to "conclusively determine" chemical weapons were used. President Barack Obama has ordered US spy agencies to urgently probe the claims, aides said.

Damascus denied it unleashed chemical weapons, particularly at a time when the UN was in Syria to inspect three sites where other such attacks allegedly took place.

It would be "political suicide" to go ahead with such an attack, a senior security source said.

One year ago, Obama warned the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a "red line" and have "enormous consequences."

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria's 29-month war, the UN says. Millions more have been forced to flee their homes.

One million Syrian children now live as refugees abroad, UN children's agency UNICEF said on Friday. Two million more have been displaced within their homeland's borders.

"This one millionth child refugee is not just another number. This is a real child ripped from home, maybe even from a family, facing horrors we can only begin to comprehend," agency chief Anthony Lake said.

The UN refugee agency has registered all one million children by name.

(AFP)

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