U.S., U.K. Warn Of 'Serious Response' In Syria

Published On : 8/25/2013 6:53 AM
From : NPR
Categories : Nation, World

The United States and Britain say Syria will face a "serious response" from the international community, if they find it used chemical weapons last week.

That's according to a statement released by Prime Minister David Cameron, after a 40 minute phone conversation with President Obama on Saturday.

The BBC has a bit more on the statement:

In this photo taken on a government organized media tour, a Syrian army soldier walks on a street in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, on Saturday.


"'The UN Security Council has called for immediate access for UN investigators on the ground in Damascus,' Downing Street said in a statement.

'The fact that President Assad has failed to co-operate with the UN suggests that the regime has something to hide.'

"It said Mr Cameron and Mr Obama had 'reiterated that significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response from the international community and both have tasked officials to examine all the options.'"

The BBC's political correspondent Iain Watson reports that it is understood that a "serious response" would not include "boots on the ground."

All of this new rhetoric is, of course, the result of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Damascus. As Scott reported, yesterday, Doctors Without Borders said that according to field reports, "355 people had died from symptoms consistent with being exposed to a neurotoxic agent."

As you can imagine, there is quite a bit of news on the diplomatic front. Some highlights:

— At around 8:50 a.m. ET., Syrian state television reported that the Syrian government had "agreed to allow U.N. inspectors access to sites in suburbs of Damascus where alleged chemical attacks occurred," Reuters reported.

— A senior administration official told the AP that U.S. intelligence community came to the conclusion that there is "very little doubt" that a chemical weapon was used "by the Syrian regime against civilians."

— Secretary of State John Kerry made rare contact with the Syrian foreign minister. The Wall Street Journal reports that Kerry pressed the Syrians to allow free access to U.N. investigators looking into chemical weapons use.

"A senior administration official acknowledged that Mr. Kerry and his Syrian counterpart don't regularly speak but denied any ultimatum was issued," the Journal reports.

— Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the U.S. is still weighing its options and analyzing intelligence reports and whether military action is appropriate.

A decision, said Hagel, "will be driven by the facts, what our intelligence assessment produces, law, international support."

NPR's Larry Abramson, who is traveling with Hagel in Malaysia, tells our Newscast unit Hagel said taking action in Syria carries risk but so does inaction.

— Syria accused rebel fighters of using chemical weapons and "warned the United States not to launch any military action against Damascus over an alleged chemical attack last week, saying such a move would set the Middle East ablaze." (AP)

— Iran issued its own warning. The AP reports:

"The semi-official Fars news agency, which has close ties to Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, quotes Gen. Masoud Jazayeri as warning that 'trespassing over the red line in Syria will have severe consequences for the White House.'"

— Israeli President Shimon Peres called on the world to "take out" chemical weapons from Syria and regime of Bashar Assad.

"It's very complicated, very expensive, but it will be more expensive and more dangerous to keep" the situation as it is, the AFP quotes him as saying.

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