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No U.N. action on Syria amid attack talks

2:23 PM, Aug 28, 2013   |    comments
The United Nations emblem is seen in front of the United Nations Office (UNOG) on June 8, 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
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The U.N. Security Council failed to reach an agreement Wednesday on a British-proposed resolution that would authorize the use of military force against Syria.

The United Kingdom drafted a resolution asking the 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.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant left the meeting without commenting to reporters.

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."

Ambassadors for the five permanent members of the council (United States Britain, France, China, Russia) met for a couple of hours at U.N. headquarters in New York, according to a Western diplomat who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

The diplomat said Russia reiterated its objections to international intervention in the Syrian crisis.

The proposal comes as the United States continues to talk with European and Middle East allies on a possible military strike against Syria. Syrians have been leaving the capital of Damascus in anticipation of an attack and the Assad regime has been evacuating military bases and regime offices.

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."


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