Syria to allow UN access to chemical attack site: Iran

A handout image released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network on 23 August 2013 shows a relative weeping over the body of one of his family members killed during an alleged toxic gas attack in eastern Ghouta earlier in the week. (Photo: AFP / Shaam News Network - Ammar al-Arbini)

Published Sunday, August 25, 2013

Iran's foreign minister said the Syrian government had told Tehran it would allow UN inspectors to visit areas reportedly affected by chemical weapons, Iran's Press TV reported late-Saturday.

The Syrian opposition has accused government forces of killing over 1,000 civilians with poison gas in Damascus suburbs on Wednesday – an accusation vehemently denied by the government.

World powers have urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to allow UN chemical weapons inspectors already in Damascus to examine the sites.

"We are in close contact with the Syrian government and they have reassured us that they had never used such inhumane weapons and would have the fullest cooperation with the UN experts to visit the areas affected," Mohammed Javad Zarif told Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino in a telephone conversation on Saturday, according to Press TV.

The Syrian government has accused rebels of launching the chemical attacks to provoke an international reaction, an account backed by Iran and Russia.

"The international community must show a serious reaction to the use of chemical weapons by the terrorists in Syria and condemn this move," Zarif said, according to the English-language Press TV report.

The United States said it was weighing "all options" over what actions to take regarding the chemical weapons attack, but stressed that it was still evaluating the situation.

"President Obama has asked the Defense Department to prepare options for all contingencies. We have done that," US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

"We are prepared to exercise whatever option, if he decides to employ one of those options."

"I wouldn't go further than that, until we have more intelligence based on facts," Hagel said.

On a flight to Malaysia from Hawaii, he told reporters the American military was moving forces into place as needed, amid speculation Washington might opt for cruise missile strikes against government targets.

(Reuters, AFP)

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