Claims by the opposition in Syria that President Bashar Assad’s forces used chemical weapons during an attack Wednesday near Damascus — killing scores of people, they say — are being followed Thursday by word that:
– “The French foreign minister has said that the international community would need to respond with force if allegations were proven that Syrian government forces carried out a mass chemical attack on civilians.” (The Guardian)
– Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is also urging that action be taken “to prevent further chemical strikes.” (The Wall Street Journal) “This event is one that cannot be ignored anymore,” Mr. Davutoglu said.
Still, as the BBC’s Nick Bryant reports, “meeting in emergency session, the United Nations Security Council failed to reach an agreement on a toughly worded statement condemning the alleged atrocity in Damascus. … Once again we saw the usual divisions between the Russians and the Chinese on one hand and the Americans, the British, the French on the other.”
The Assad regime rejects the allegations about use of chemical weapons. There have been countercharges that opposition forces might have deployed such weapons or staged the videos that popped up Wednesday on the Web — videos showing scores of people who had allegedly been victims of a chemical attack. United Nations inspectors are now in Syria to investigate earlier reports about the use of chemical weapons, and the regime alleges that the opposition is trying to influence those inspectors.
On Morning Edition, Financial Times correspondent Abigail Fielding-Smith reported from Beirut that “my gut reaction and the reaction of most of the analysts I’ve spoken to is that … these videos — there are simply too many of them, and too many of them involve children who … I don’t see how they could be coached to act [out] those kinds of things. … It just seems highly implausible that the entire kind of range of symptoms that we’ve seen and people in distress are some kind of movie.”
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports that Assad’s forces “pressed on with a military offensive in eastern Damascus on Thursday, bombing rebel-held suburbs where the opposition said a chemical weapons attack the day before killed over 100 people.”