08/26/2013, 00.00
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Syria: as UN begins chemical weapons investigation, international community is still divided

The team of experts arrived today in Ghouta, north of Damascus, to see if neurotoxins were used against civilians. As the United States, France, Britain and Turkey prepare for military action without UN approval, Moscow reminds anti-Assad powers about errors made in Iraq.

Damascus (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Syrian government will allow the United Nations to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians. The rebels have said that they too will be available to UN experts. Today, the UN team began its work but the international community remains divided over the future of the conflict.

"Syria is ready to cooperate with the inspection team to prove that the allegations by terrorist groups (rebels) of the use of chemical weapons by Syrian troops in the Eastern Ghouta region are lies," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said yesterday.

According to the opposition, the attack a few days ago in Ghouta, a district in northern Damascus, claimed the lives of 1,300 people.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Saturday that 355 people who died in its hospitals showed "neurotoxin symptoms".

Syria's overtures have not however changed the international community's position on a military intervention in Syria, except for its main allies, Russia and Iran.

So far, the only appeals for reconciliation and the end of hostilities have come from the Vatican.

Yesterday, the pope urged all countries involved in Syria to stop "the clatter of arms" and work for peace, calling on the parties to meet and talk in order to stop this "war between brothers".

Despite Pope Francis's appeal, the West and its allies appear to be moving towards armed conflict. Yesterday, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US military was "prepared to exercise whatever option" against Syria but intelligence was still being evaluated.

French President Francois Hollande said there was "a body of evidence indicating that the August 21 attack was chemical in nature, and that everything led to the belief that the Syrian regime was responsible for this unspeakable act".

Turkey has taken the toughest stance. Yesterday, in an interview with daily Milliyet, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey would join any coalition against Mr Assad's government.

As US President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron talk, the British navy is also preparing to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, The Telegraph reported.

For its part, Moscow has called on the US and its allies to reflect. "All of this makes one recall the events that happened 10 years ago, when, using false information about Iraqis having weapons of mass destructions, the US bypassed the United Nations and started a scheme whose consequences are well known to everyone," the Russian Foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia's position is shared by Iran. "If the United States crosses this red line, there will be harsh consequences for the White House," Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff Massoud Jazayeri said.

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