News / Middle East

France: World Must Respond if Syria Used Chemical Weapons

International Community Urges Force in Response to Alleged Syrian Chemical Weaponsi
X
August 22, 2013 5:01 PM
International anger and frustration is growing following allegations Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in the suburbs of Damascus. Opposition activists say hundreds are dead. And now some countries are saying the time has come to respond with force. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Related report: International Community Urges Force in Response to Alleged Syrian Chemical Weapons
VOA News
France says the international community must respond with force if opposition allegations that Syrian forces used chemical weapons in an attack near Damascus prove true.
 
But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday ruled out the use of ground troops.
 
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is also urging international action, saying a "red line" has been crossed in Syria.
 
Activists say Syrian forces launched new bombing attacks Thursday in the eastern Ghouta area, where a day earlier the opposition accused government troops of killing many civilians with chemical weapons.
 
Syria denies accusations

The Syrian government has denied the chemical weapons allegations.  It says the opposition is trying to distract United Nations inspectors who are in the country to investigate government claims that rebels used chemical weapons earlier this year.
 
The U.N. Security Council held an urgent session Wednesday to discuss the situation in Syria.
 
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson expressed concern about the new allegations and said U.N. officials were discussing gaining access to the sites with the Syrian government.
 
"This represents, no matter what the conclusions are, a serious escalation with grave humanitarian consequences and human consequences," El We very much hope that we will be able to conduct the investigation," Eliasson noted.
 
Western powers urge inspection

The Arab League and Western powers, including the United States, also urged Syria's government to allow U.N. inspectors to immediately visit the sites.
 
Russia, a key Syrian ally, accused the opposition of committing a "premeditated provocation" by making claims about mass casualties from a government chemical attack soon after the arrival of the U.N. inspectors. 
 
Syrian opposition reports of the death toll from Wednesday's attacks varied widely. Opposition leader George Sabra of the exiled Syrian National Coalition told a news conference in Istanbul the number of those killed is as high as 1,300.  His claim could not be independently verified.  
 
Syrian activists said government troops unleashed an artillery and rocket barrage against several Damascus suburbs, with some of the weapons allegedly containing chemical elements. They posted videos online showing scores of bodies of adults and children laid out on the floor of makeshift clinics with no visible signs of injuries. 
 
The White House said it is "deeply concerned" by the reports and called for those responsible for using chemical weapons to be held accountable. It said the Syrian government must allow U.N. investigators to "examine and collect physical evidence without any interference or manipulation."
 
The mandate of the U.N. inspection team is limited to establishing whether chemical weapons - including sarin and other toxic nerve agents - were used, not who used them. 
 
The Syrian government also has restricted the mission to investigating several specific incidents, including a March attack in the Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal.

  • Activists wear gas masks as they look for dead bodies and collect samples to check for chemical weapon use in Zamalka, Damascus, August 22, 2013.
  • An activist wearing a gas mask stands next to a dead dog as he looks for bodies to collect samples to check for chemical weapon use, in Zamalka, Damascus, August 22, 2013.
  • Syrian activists inspect the bodies of people they say were killed by toxic gas near Damascus, August 21, 2013.
  • A man sits in a hospital near two children who activists say were affected by toxic gas near Damascus, August 21, 2013.
  • People, affected by what activists say is toxic gas, are treated at a hospital in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus August 21, 2013.
  • A youth, affected by what activists say is toxic gas, is treated at a hospital near Damascus, August 21, 2013.
  • A Syrian military soldier holds his Ak-47 with a sticker of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Arabic that reads, "Syria is fine," as he stands guard at a check point on Baghdad street, in Damascus, August 21, 2013.
  • A Syrian military soldier checks the trunk of a car at a check point on Baghdad street, in Damascus, August 21, 2013.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs