UNITED NATIONS— The world’s major powers met at the United Nations Wednesday to discuss a British-drafted Security Council resolution that would open the door to military intervention in Syria, in response to last week’s chemical gas attack that killed hundreds of people.
Ambassadors from the five permanent Security Council members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - met behind closed doors to discuss the proposed resolution. It would authorize “all necessary measures” to protect Syrian civilians in the wake of last week’s poison gas attack - diplomatic speak for military intervention.
The United States and Britain said this week that there is very little doubt President Bashar al-Assad’s forces perpetrated the August 21 attack.
Diplomats in New York would not speak to reporters. But in Washington, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf indicated the United States does not see a way forward at the United Nations.
“We see no avenue forward, given continued Russian opposition to any meaningful [Security] Council action on Syria," she said. "Therefore, the United States will continue its consultations and take appropriate actions to respond in the days ahead.”
Russia and China have used their U.N. veto three times since the crisis began in 2011 to prevent sanctions and other censure of the Syrian government.
In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov told the Interfax news agency that any Security Council reaction would be “premature” before a U.N. inspection team presents its report.
U.N. inspectors continued their work in Syria Wednesday, visiting several locations in the Damascus suburbs, including impact sites, where they collected additional information and samples.
At the United Nations, Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said his government has written to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to inform him of new allegations of poison gas use against the army. He said soldiers inhaled agents similar to the nerve gas sarin on August 22, 24 and 25 in the suburbs of Damascus.
“Dozens of Syrian soldiers are currently [being] treated in Syrian hospitals, due to this use of chemical agents by the terrorist armed groups operating in the countryside of Damascus,” he said.
The envoy said Damascus is asking the U.N. chief to extend the 14-day mission of the inspectors, who are due to leave in the coming days, so they can “immediately investigate” these claims.
Ambassador Ja’afari also dismissed allegations that his government has used chemical weapons, saying they are a “moral atrocity.” He noted that if attacked, Syria has the right to self-defense