UN Truck Convoy 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
THE HAGUE - United Nations inspectors, in Syria to determine whether forces have used chemical weapons in the civil war, need four days to conclude their investigation and time to analyze the findings, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday.
"They are working very hard, under very, very dangerous circumstances," Ban told a news conference in The Hague where he was attending centenary celebrations for the Peace Palace.
"Let them conclude their work for four days, and then we will have to analyse scientifically with experts and then I think we will have to report to the Security Council for any actions."
Meanwhile, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Wednesday that any US military action taken in response to apparent chemical weapons
attacks in Syria would need to be approved by the UN Security Council.
"I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council. That is what international law says," he told a press conference in Geneva.
"I must say that I do know that President Obama and the American administration are not known to be trigger-happy. What they will decide I don't know. But certainly international law is very clear."
Brahimi said it seemed that "some kind of substance" had been used near Damascus on Aug. 21, killing hundreds of people, but that he awaited evidence from Western powers as well as UN inspectors currently visiting the sites.
Brahimi moved his headquarters from Cairo to Geneva earlier this month in hope of overseeing preparations for an international conference on ending Syria's civil war. The meeting is known as Geneva 2, since it would follow a June 30, 2012 session when major powers reached agreement that they wanted a political transition, but failed to stop the war.
"The Russians and the Americans are both telling me they remain committed to Geneva 2, but what will happen, I think, we will know only if and when this military action takes place," Brahimi said.
Meanwhile, reports emerged from Al Jazeera that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime forces bombed the Jobar neighborhood in eastern Damascus with toxic chemicals in a mortar attack on Wednesday.
The Syrian Support Group tweeted the use of poisonous gases on Free Syrian Army Soldiers, stating Assad's forces used chemical mortar shells on Tuesday against his citizens.
Syrian rebels said the attack was carried out near the northeastern Damascus suburb where a chemical weapons strike last Wednesday killed hundreds.
Activists added that 12 people were killed and fifty others injured in a bombing targeting the countryside of Aleppo, Al Jazeera reported. According to the report, Assad's forces dropped phosphorus bombs and napalm on civilians in rural Aleppo on Monday.
Videos made by activists showed injuries from burns and people suffering from breathing difficulties. The Syrian Center for Information reported that all the victims are students.
The reports emerged as a team of United Nations inspectors reached rebel-held territory outside
Damascus on Wednesday, opposition activists said, and would soon begin a second
day of investigating the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed
hundreds of people.
"They have reached the town of Maleiha and are now
with the rebel escorts, soon they will head to towns where the strikes happened
and begin their inspections," said activist Salam Mohammed, speaking via Skype.
Opponents of Assad say his forces used rockets loaded with poison gas in the middle of a fierce offensive on the Damascus outskirts, with activists putting the death toll between 500 and more than 1,000. Assad denies the charges.Reuters contributed to this report.
Iraq has put its security forces on high alert ahead of an expected international strike on Syria, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday.
"All political and security powers in Baghdad, the provinces and all over Iraq, announce the highest level of alert," he said in a weekly televised statement which focused mainly on Syria.
Western powers are weighing up options for possible military strikes against Syria following a suspected chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb last week that killed hundreds of civilians.