Human Rights Watch
says Syrian forces were "almost certainly responsible" for the chemical weapons attack last month that sparked international debate on how to respond, including the prospect of a U.S. military strike.
The group said in a new report Tuesday that the type of rockets used, photos and videos from the attack sites, and interviews with victims and doctors all implicate government forces. It also says allegations of rebel responsibility lack credibility and do not match the evidence.
World mulls Russian plan
The report comes as world leaders express support for a proposal by Syrian ally Russia to place the country's chemical weapons under international control.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem endorsed the plan presented Monday, saying it would be a way to avoid what he called U.S. aggression. Iran, another Syrian ally, said Tuesday it welcomed the idea.
Khaled Saleh, a spokesman for the main opposition Syrian National Coalition criticized the proposal, saying President Bashar al-Assad would be unlikely to follow through and would use the step to "buy more time."
British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose parliament rejected the idea of military intervention, welcomed the plan, but also said the world needs to make sure it is not a "distraction tactic."
US, France still considering airstrikes
The United States and France are continuing to assess the option of conducting airstrikes against Syria to punish Assad for allegedly carrying out the deadly chemical attack and to deter any future use of the weapons.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the Russian proposal merits examination, while U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the White House will "take a hard look" at the plan.
U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller pressed the case for a military strike in talks with Chinese defense officials Monday, saying a strong response would also deter North Korea from using chemical weapons. Speaking Tuesday, Miller said he stressed the need to uphold the international threshold for chemical weapons as a matter of global security.
China and Russia have opposed outside military intervention in Syria, and have used their veto power on the United Nations Security Council to block three rounds of proposed sanctions against Assad's government.