Outrage over alleged chemical attacks
Aug 25, 2013 / 8:59 pm
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and other western leaders applied more pressure on Syria on Sunday, with a call for Syrian authorities to allow the United Nations immediate and unfettered access to the site of last week's alleged chemical attack.
Officials in Baird's office said he had separate phone conversations on Sunday with US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Foreign Minister of the French Republic, Laurent Fabius. He spoke with British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Friday.
The ministers "shared their outrage" about recent events in Syria, especially the purported use of chemical weapons, said an foreign affairs official in an email.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also was pulling the diplomatic levers over the weekend, discussing the situation in Syria by phone on Saturday in separate conversations with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.
Baird's office said there was agreement in the discussions the minister had that the delay in allowing inspectors, along with the bombardment of the affected areas, has likely already impaired the UN's ability to assign responsibility in the attacks.
"The regime's actions on this issue in the coming hours and days will speak louder than its words," said a statement from Baird's office released Sunday.
A visit to the site of the alleged chemical attack could come as early as Monday.
A statement on Syrian state television said Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and UN disarmament chief Angela Kane struck a deal and that the two sides were working to finalize the date and time of the visit.
The UN said a team of international experts is preparing to go as early as Monday to the suburb of Damascus where the purported attack took place.
Anti-government activists and Doctors Without Borders say that more than 300 people were killed in the alleged toxic gas attack. The Assad regime has denied using chemical weapons on civilians, instead pointing a finger at rebel forces.
Confirming whether chemical weapons were used carries enormous stakes, and could play a large role in determining the future course of Syria's civil war. It has reinvigorated debate about the possible use of foreign military action in the conflict.
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