Photo by the Associated Press
The United Kingdom said Wednesday it has drafted a resolution asking the United Nations Security Council to condemn Syria for gassing hundreds of civilians and that would authorize "necessary measures to protect civilians."
Such wording could open the door to U.N. approval of military action against Syria, a move Security Council member Russia has said it would block with its veto power.
British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is guilty of using chemical weapons in its battle with rebels seeking to topple the administration. It said it was time for the Security Council to "live up to its responsibilities on Syria."
The proposal comes as the United States continues to talk with European and Middle East allies on a possible military strike against Syria. The proposal was to be put forward at a meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council on Wednesday.
Al Arabiya, a news agency based in Saudi Arabia, reported that rebels forces say Assad has begun evacuating some military bases and regime offices in expectation of an attack. U.S. naval ships have moved into position in the Mediterranean off the coast of Syria, and warplanes from the United Kingdom have gathered at a base on the island of Cyprus.
Al Arabiya quoted opposition sources in Syria as saying that trucks evacuated the headquarters of the Syrian army's 4th Division in Damascus and that army intelligence headquarters were moved to undercover centers.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has appealed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Ban said the U.N. team investigating the alleged chemical attack must be given time to establish the facts. Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian group based in France, says at least 350 people were killed Aug. 21 in what appears to be a poison gas attack at a rebel stronghold north of Damascus. Rebel forces say more than 1,000 people died.
U.N. weapons inspectors are continuing their investigation, but the U.N.'s envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said Wednesday there is evidence suggesting a chemical "substance" was used during the alleged attack.
Brahimi, speaking in Switzerland, said international law requires a decision from the Security Council before military action can take place, legally. But the United States and its allies have in the past struck overseas without U.N. approval, such as the NATO air campaign in the Balkan wars under President Clinton.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that attempts at a military solution will only lead to further destabilization in Syria and the Mideast region, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's leader, has said intervention by the U.S. and its allies would be a "disaster."