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)
BEIJING, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Wednesday underlined the need for "clarity" on 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, 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 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 blamed 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.
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 said 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.
But this "cannot resolve the underlying and historic ethnic, religious, and tribal issues that are fueling this conflict," Dempsey wrote, adding that "the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today they are not."
Dempsey said the best U.S. strategy moving forward is to "significantly increase our effort to develop a moderate opposition" while assisting in the humanitarian crisis "on a far more significant scale."
The Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011 between government forces and armed opposition seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad, has killed more than 93,000 people and forced over 1.7 million people to flee the country.
According to the UN, at least 6.8 million Syrian people require urgent humanitarian aid, half of them children.