|Argentina's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maria Cristina Perceval, who holds this month's presidency of the Security Council, speaks to reporters after briefing a closed-door emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Syria, at the UN headquarters in New York, on Aug. 21, 2013. (Xinhua/Niu Xiaolei)|
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Wednesday underlined the need for "clarity" with the latest alleged use of chemical weapons in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, saying "the situation has to be followed carefully."
The statement came as Maria Cristina Perceval, the permanent representative of Argentina to the United Nations and the council president for August, was speaking to reporters here at the end of an emergency council meeting on Syria.
"We can say that there is a strong concern among council members about allegations in a general sense that there must be clarity on what happened and that the situation has to be followed carefully," Perceval said.
The closed-door council meeting, which began at around 3:20 p.m. EDT (1920 GMT) on Wednesday, heard a briefing by Deputy UN Secretary-General Jan Eliasson.
Eliasson, who briefed the council on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, asked the Syrian government to give access to the area so that the UN inspectors currently in Syria can conduct the investigation as soon as possible into the alleged use of chemical weapons on Wednesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ban said that he was "shocked" to learn the report of alleged use of chemical weapons.
The main Syrian opposition group claimed that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on Wednesday and killed as many as 1,300 people. But Damascus denied the accusations.
"All council members agree that any use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances is a violation of international law," Perceval said.
"There was also an agreement for a strong call for cessation of hostilities and cease-fire," she said. "The members of the Security Council also welcome the determination of the secretary-general to ensure a thorough and impartial and prompt investigation."
The alleged chemical weapons attack took place just two days after a group of UN inspectors began an investigation into alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.
The UN team of inspectors was set up at the request of the Syrian government in March and it is headed by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq.
The UN fact-finding group will investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons reported by the government of Syria at Khan al-Assal as well as two other allegations reported by member states.
The Syrian government and rebels blame each other for a purported chemical weapons attack on Khan al-Asal on March 19 that killed at least 25 people and wounded 130 others.
On Wednesday afternoon, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that "the reports of attacks on civilians, presumably including children, on the outskirts of Damascus are deeply disturbing."
"Such horrific acts should be a reminder to all the parties and all who have influence on them that this terrible conflict has gone on far too long and children have suffered more than enough," the UN agency said in a statement issued here.
"Children must be protected, and those who fail to protect them will be held accountable," the statement said.
Shortly after the end of the urgent council meeting, Philip Parham, the British deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told reporters that a number of UN member states have sent a letter to the secretary-general, who left New York for a visit to South Korea on Wednesday, asking for an investigation into the allegations.
"It was originally proposed by us but as you can imagine a number of member states had the same broad idea at the same time and the total number who have signed up to that letter is around 35," he said.
U.S. against military intervention as Syria rebels noncommittal on U.S. interests: Dempsey
WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- The United States can tip the military balance toward the Syrian opposition, but it has refused to do so mainly because the rebels may not back U.S. interests once they seize power, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey was quoted by local media on Wednesday.
In a letter sent Monday to representative Eliot Engel, top democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey said the U.S. military can change the balance of power in Syria by destroying the Syrian Air Force and negating government troops' ability to attack the rebels from the air, according to U.S. media reports. Full story