Int'l community calls for immediate UN action on Syria incident

DAMASCUS, Aug. 24 ( -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that he intends to conduct a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in an attack on the outskirts of Damascus on Wednesday.

The statement made by UN spokesman has won extensive support of the international community, which urges the UN to take immediate actions to probe the incident.

On Friday, the secretary general of the opposition Syrian National Coalition told reporters that samples from the victims had been smuggled out of Syria by opponents of the government for testing by experts, but refused to say where the samples were sent.

On Wednesday, the Syrian opposition accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of killing 1,193 people in chemical weapon attacks in the suburbs of Damascus.

However, the Syrian government denied using such weapons in rebel-held areas in Damascus' eastern countryside, saying such accusations were part of a dirty media war against Syria.

The opposition's accusation came amid a UN mission here to investigate possible use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. The probe was requested by the Syrian government, which accused the Western-backed rebels of using sarin agent in the northern town of Khan al-Asal.

Ban said Friday that the situation in Syria was getting increasingly worse, noting that all technical preparations and review were completed for the UN to intervene in the incident as rapidly as possible.

He said the UN has sent a formal written request to the Syrian government, asking for its cooperation on the UN probe into the latest allegation of chemical weapons use in the country.

Ban urged the Syrian authorities to respond positively and promptly to his request without delay and called on all member states with interest and influence to equally exert their utmost for the provision of a safe and secure environment for the Mission to engage in its work.

Also Friday, the foreign policy chief of the European Union Catherine Ashton called on the international community to find out a political solution to the Syrian conflict in high urgency and act with a sense of urgency and responsibility.

I fully support the UN call for a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation into these alleged chemical attacks, Ashton said. The international community must now urgently show a united face and ensure that a credible and thorough investigation can be carried out.

On the same day, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich also called on influential parties to facilitate UN experts' investigation into the attack.

China said Friday that it supports the UN to carry out an independent, objective, impartial and professional investigation.

No matter which side in Syria uses chemical weapons, China resolutely opposes it, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said the UN team, which investigates the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria, must be given an immediate access to the attack site with no obstacles.

The UN investigation team should immediately examine the site of the killings and share its findings with the world, said the president.

The U.S. administration on Friday stressed that the United States refuses to make hasty conclusions or rush towards a costly war, though suggestions were made by a senior Democrat Eliot Enge that air strikes be launched against Syria.

The Syrian government is under increasing pressure from the international community to allow full access to the rebel-held site of Wednesday's attack, but so far has offered no public response to calls for wider UN access.

A preliminary intelligence finding released Friday by Western security sources has shown chemical weapons were used by Syrian forces in the attack, but UN inspectors are still awaiting permission for a probe into the incident.

The intelligent agencies cautioned that this was only an initial assessment and that they were still seeking conclusive evidence, which could take days or longer.