UK to raise reported Syrian chemical weapons use at U.N.

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 21, 2013 6:16 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Wednesday it would raise a reported chemical weapons attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad at the United Nations Security Council and called on Damascus to give U.N. inspectors access to the site.

"I am deeply concerned by reports that hundreds of people, including children, have been killed in airstrikes and a chemical weapons attack on rebel-held areas near Damascus," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

Hague said reports of the attack, which has been denied outright by the Syrian government, remained uncorroborated and that Britain was urgently seeking more information.

"But it is clear that if they are verified, it would mark a shocking escalation in the use of chemical weapons in Syria," he said, adding that Britain would try to hold to account anyone who used chemical weapons or ordered their use.

"I call on the Syrian Government to allow immediate access to the area for the U.N. team currently investigating previous allegations of chemical weapons use. The UK will be raising this incident at the U.N. Security Council," said Hague.

Britain provides non-lethal assistance to rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, but has stopped short of sending them arms and has seen its diplomatic efforts to put pressure on Assad frustrated by Russia and China at the United Nations.

(Reporting By Andrew Osborn; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)