Syria un­der pres­sure af­ter al­leged chem­i­cal weapons kill hun­dreds

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Da­m­as­cus

Syria on Thurs­day came un­der in­tense pres­sure to al­low UN weapons in­spec­tors to visit the site of an al­leged chem­i­cal weapons at­tack near Da­m­as­cus that the op­po­si­tion says left hun­dreds dead and pro­voked re­vul­sion around the world.

Da­m­as­cus has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions but a US of­fi­cial cited by The Wall Street Jour­nal said there were “strong in­di­ca­tions” that Syr­ian forces had in­deed un­leashed chem­i­cal weapons on Wed­nes­day dur­ing at­tacks on rebel zones near the cap­i­tal.

China said on Thurs­day that UN chem­i­cal weapons ex­perts should be ob­jec­tive and “fully con­sult” with the Syr­ian govern­ment in their work.

“China’s po­si­tion is very clear. It does not mat­ter what side in Syria uses chem­i­cal weapons, China res­o­lutely op­poses it,” the For­eign Min­istry said in a state­ment.

“At present, the UN’s chem­i­cal weapons in­spec­tion team for Syria is on the ground be­gin­ning its in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and China hopes that the team fully con­sults with the Syr­ian govern­ment and main­tains an ob­jec­tive, im­par­tial and pro­fes­sional stance, to as­cer­tain what re­ally hap­pened.”

France said it is seek­ing a reaction with “force” if al­le­ga­tions by the National Coali­tion, the main op­po­si­tion group, of a mas­sacre in­volv­ing chem­i­cal weapons are con­firmed.

The coali­tion said more than 1,300 peo­ple had died, while videos and pho­to­graphs showed scenes of peo­ple foam­ing at the mouth and of bod­ies stacked up in morgues.

In one video posted on YouTube, chil­dren are seen re­ceiv­ing first aid in a field hos­pi­tal, notably oxy­gen to help them breathe. Doc­tors ap­pear to be try­ing to re­sus­ci­tate un­con­scious chil­dren.

An­other video showed what ac­tivists said was a case of hys­te­ria fol­low­ing a chem­i­cal strike in the eastern sub­urbs.

Western gov­ern­ments de­manded that a team of UN in­spec­tors al­ready in Syria be given ac­cess to the sites of the al­leged at­tacks.

The head of the UN in­spec­tion mis­sion, Aake Sell­stroem, was in talks with Da­m­as­cus “on all is­sues per­tain­ing to the al­leged use of chem­i­cal weapons, in­clud­ing this most re­cent re­ported in­ci­dent”, a UN state­ment said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest de­manded the in­spec­tors be given “im­me­di­ate ac­cess to wit­nesses and af­fected in­di­vid­u­als” and “the abil­ity to ex­am­ine and col­lect phys­i­cal ev­i­dence with­out any in­ter­fer­ence or ma­nip­u­la­tion from the Syr­ian govern­ment”.

Wash­ing­ton has pre­vi­ously de­scribed chem­i­cal weapons use as a red line that might prompt it to in­ter­vene mil­i­tar­ily in Syria.

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