World News‎ > ‎

British Minister Thinks Syria's Assad Was Behind Chemical Attack

posted 24 Aug 2013, 03:43 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 24 Aug 2013, 03:44 ]

Foreign Secretary William Hague says Britain believes forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are behind the alleged chemical weapons attacks that killed hundreds of people.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (AUGUST 23, 2013) (POOL) -  Britain said on Friday (August 23) it believed forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were responsible for a chemical weapons attacks in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, and that it was crucial for the U.N. inspection team on the ground to establish the truth about what had happened.

"This is not something that a humane or civilised world can ignore. Our priority is make sure the world knows the facts of what has happened, and that means the U.N. team that is in Damascus, only 20 minutes travel away, being able to get there and to investigate," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Friday.

Stepping up calls for U.N. inspectors to be allowed access to the site of the reported attack, Hague said Britain would go back to the U.N. Security Council to seek a stronger mandate if inspectors were not granted access "within some days".

"So this is our priority at the moment, to make sure that the U.N. team can investigate on the ground and establish the facts. If that doesn't happen though within some days, since time is of the essence in these things, the evidence will deteriorate over a matter of days, then we'll need to be ready to go back to the Security Council to get a stronger mandate and for the world to speak together more forcefully about this so there can be access. So this is what we're focused on, and we're working with countries all over the world to try to bring this about and to try to establish the truth to the satisfaction of the world about what is clearly a terrible atrocity," he said.

Britain said it believed Assad's regime was behind the attacks and accused the Syrian governmentof having "something to hide".

"Well, the only possibly explanation of what we've been able to see is that it was a chemical attack. Clearly many many hundreds of people have been killed, some of the estimates are well over a thousand. There is no other plausible explanation for casualties so intense and in such a small area on this scale," said Hague.

"I know some people in the world would like to say that this is some kind of conspiracy brought about by the opposition in Syria, I think the chances of that are vanishingly small. And so we do believe this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime on a large scale, but we would like the United Nations to be able to assess that, so for those who don't believe that, for those who doubt that, the evidence can be gathered, but that is certainly our opinion," he added.

Hague said at the moment Britain would not consider using force to resolve the Syria crisis.

"But of course we don't rule out any options for the future. Any options that comply with the international law and could save innocent lives, we have to be open to those options. But decisions about that would come later, now we have to establish the facts," he said.

Syria's uprising against four decades of Assad family rule has turned into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, and foreign powers have said chemical weapons could change the calculus in terms of outside intervention.