News / Middle East

US to Seek International Coalition on Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, gestures as he answers questions from reporters during his visit at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, Aug. 30, 2013.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, gestures as he answers questions from reporters during his visit at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, Aug. 30, 2013.
VOA News
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the United States will continue to seek an international coalition in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons, despite opposition by British lawmakers to any military action.
 
"Our approach is to continue to find an international coalition that will act together," Hagel said in Manila Friday, after Britain's lower house of Parliament rejected a motion for British participation in a military strike. The non-binding vote is a setback to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who told lawmakers a military strike would be a response to a war crime, not an attempt to topple the Syrian government. 
 
Reacting to the British vote, Hagel said, “First, every nation has the responsibility to make their own decisions.  And we respect that with any nation.  We are continuing to consult with the British as we are with all of our allies and partners.  And that consultation includes ways forward, together on a response to this weapons attack in Syria."
 
Asked what Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, could do to avoid a military strike, the U.S. defense secretary responded he has "not been informed of any change in the Assad regime's position on any issue." 
 
In Paris, French President Francois Hollande said the British vote will not affect his country's position on Syria. In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, he said he does not favor international action merely to overthrow the government, but a chemical assault must not go unpunished. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief foreign policy aide said the British decision shows that "people are beginning to understand" the dangers of a military strike.
 
Germany also appears to be backing away from any military intervention in Syria. Government officials say a military commitment has not been requested and is not being considered. 

Intelligence 

The White House could make public on Friday a declassified version of an intelligence report on an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria. 
 
Members of Congress who were briefed by senior administration officials on Thursday say there is no doubt the Syrian government carried out the deadly attack near Damascus, last week. 
 
Democratic Representative Eliot Engel of New York said the U.S. officials cited intercepted communications between senior Syrian officials. He also said intelligence showed the Syrians moved materials around in advance of a chemical strike.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have asked the White House for the legal justification and objectives for a military strike on Syria.

President Barack Obama is still deciding how to respond to Syria. A military strike against the Assad government appears to be the most likely course of action.

Syria denies carrying out a chemical attack and accuses the rebels of using such weapons on Syrian soldiers.

UN inspectors leave the Four Seasons Hotel in their vehicles in Damascus, Syria, Aug. 29, 2013.
UN inspectors leave the Four Seasons Hotel in their vehicles in Damascus, Syria, Aug. 29, 2013.


UN inspectors winding down Syria probe

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged world powers to hold off on possible military action until a U.N. chemical weapons inspection team completes its work in the country.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq on Thursday said the team investigating the August 21 attack near Damascus would leave the country by Saturday morning.  While some will remain in Europe to analyze their samples, Haq said U.N. disarmament chief Angela Kane and other inspectors will be in New York in the coming days to brief Mr. Ban.

“They will have a large number of facts at their disposal, they’ve collected considerable amount of evidence - evidence through samples, evidence through witness interviews -- they can construct from that a fact-based narrative that can get at the key facts of what happened,” he said.

Once laboratory results are in, the team will issue a final report.  Haq said, “It is imperative that the work that the investigation team does be seen by all as fair, impartial and accurate.”

Also Thursday, Russia called a meeting of the other permanent members of the Security Council.  Talks with Britain, China, France and the United States lasted about 45 minutes, but diplomats did not brief reporters on what transpired.  On Wednesday, the group met to discuss a resolution proposed by Britain that would authorize “all necessary measures” to protect Syrian civilians.

China and Russia have blocked previous attempts at the U.N. to impose sanctions on President Assad’s regime.  That has led to frustration for the U.S. and its European allies.

On Wednesday, Deputy U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that despite Russian opposition to a U.N. authorization of force in Syria, Washington will take its own “appropriate actions to respond in the days ahead.”

Other nations react to possible military strike

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said his government and Russia will work to prevent an attack on Syria, and warned any assault could “bring great costs” to the region.  

Iran also has warned that any Western action against Syria would result in the “imminent destruction of Israel,” a U.S. ally in the region.

Also Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government supports Washington and its other allies contemplating a military response to Syria.  He said, however, the Canadian military would not take a role in any attack.

In Tokyo, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan's Cabinet members are in agreement that the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated under any circumstance and responsibility for their use lies with the Assad government. Japan, a close American ally, has constitutional restraints on joining any military action. But Suga says Japan will provide humanitarian assistance, especially to refugees displaced by the fighting inside Syria.

The United Nations and aid groups report new refugee flows to neighboring countries: already more than 2 million Syrians have fled, half of them children.

In Syria, opposition activists say there is heavy shelling, on Friday in suburban Damascus. 

VOA's Steve Herman contributed to this report from Bangkok.  Marissa Melton and Sam Verma contributed from Washington.

Photo Gallery: Latest Images from Syria 
  • In this citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, Syrians search under rubble to rescue people from houses that were destroyed by a Syrian government warplane in Idlib province, August 30, 2013.
  • In this citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, smoke rises after explosives were dropped by a Syrian government warplane in Idlib province, August 30, 2013.
  • In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, U.N. investigators gather potential evidence in a Damascus suburb, August 28, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen shows Syrians moving a man who was allegedly exposed to chemical weapons to show him to U.N. investigators in a Damascus suburb, August 28, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen shows U.N. investigators in a suburb of Damascus, August 28, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they escort U.N. vehicles carrying chemical weapons experts at the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, August 28, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters deploy in Aleppo's town of Khanasir after seizing it, August 26, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters inspect munitions and a tank that belonged to forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after they seized Khanasir, August 26, 2013.
  • A U.N. chemical weapons expert gathers evidence at site of an alleged poison gas attack in a southwestern Damascus suburb, August 26, 2013.
  • An image grab taken from a video posted by Syrian activists purportedly shows a U.N. inspector speaking to a man in a Damascus suburb, August 26, 2013.
  • U.N. chemical weapons experts visit a hospital where wounded people affected by a suspected gas attack are being treated, in a southwestern Damascus suburb, August 26, 2013.

You May Like

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Audio Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid