Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to launch home-made rockets in an attack against forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad in Deir Al Zor.
BEIRUT: Syria agreed to let the UN inspect the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack from today but a US official said any such offer would be “too late to be credible” and there was little doubt the government was to blame.
Foreign powers have been searching for a response since hundreds of people were killed by alleged poisonous gas on Wednesday in the suburbs of Damascus in what appears to have been the world’s worst chemical weapons attack in 25 years.
The UN said Damascus had agreed to a ceasefire while a UN team of experts are at the site for inspections. Syria confirmed it had agreed to allow inspections. But there were increasing signs that the US and its allies were considering taking action, a year after President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons was a “red line” that would prompt serious consequences. A senior US official said there was very little doubt that Damascus had used a chemical weapon against civilians and that the US was still weighing how to respond.
“At this juncture, any belated decision by the regime to grant access to the UN team would be considered too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime’s persistent shelling and other international actions over the last five days,” the official said.
Syria’s Information Minister said any US military action would “create a ball of fire that will inflame the Middle East”. He said Damascus had evidence chemical weapons were used by rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Al Assad, not by his government. Western countries say they believe the rebels do not have access to poison gas.
“This crime must not be swept under the carpet,” British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said after a telephone call with French President Francois Hollande. “France is determined that this act does not go unpunished,” Hollande’s office said.
Hollande also told Obama that “everything was consistent” with the conclusion that Damascus was behind the suspected chemical attack. Agencies