December 12, 2013
Syria lets UN inspect gas attack site, Washington says too late
Syria has agreed to let the United Nations inspect the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack from Monday onwards, but a US official said any such offer would be "too late to be credible" and there was little doubt the government was to blame.
Foreign powers have been searching for a response since many hundreds of people were killed by poisonous gas on Wednesday in the suburbs of Damascus in what appears to have been the world's worst chemical weapons attack in 25 years.
The United Nations said Damascus had agreed to a ceasefire while a U.N. team of experts are at the site for inspections which will begin on Monday. Syria confirmed it had agreed to allow the inspections.
But there were increasing signs that the United States and its allies were considering taking action, a year after President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons was a "red line" that would prompt serious consequences.
A senior US official said there was very little doubt that the Syrian government had used a chemical weapon against civilians on Wednesday and that Washington was still weighing how to respond.
"At this juncture, any belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team would be considered too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime's persistent shelling and other international actions over the last five days," the official said.
Syria's information minister said any US military action would "create a ball of fire that will inflame the Middle East".
He said Damascus had evidence chemical weapons were used by rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad, not by his government. Western countries say they believe the rebels do not have access to poison gas.