Aug 27 2013
The US State Department has said it is cancelling a meeting with Russian diplomats on Syria this week.
The meeting at The Hague was about setting up an international conference to find a political resolution to the Syrian crisis.
But a senior State Department official said the meeting between under secretary Wendy Sherman and US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford with their Russian counterparts was cancelled because of the US review about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
The US says it has evidence that chemical weapons were very likely used by the government of Bashar Assad and the official said the meeting would be rescheduled because a political solution was still needed in Syria.
Earlier, snipers fired on the UN convoy carrying a team investigating the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but failed to deter them from their mission. The Syrian government immediately accused rebel forces of firing at the team, while their opponents said a pro-government militia was behind the attack. Activists said the inspectors eventually arrived in Moadamiyeh, a western suburb of Damascus and one of the areas where last week's attack allegedly occurred. They said the team members spent three hours at a makeshift hospital, meeting doctors and taking samples from victims.
The sniper attack came as support for an international military response was mounting if it is confirmed that Assad's troops used chemical weapons. France, Britain, Israel and some US congressmen have said such a response against the Syrian regime should be an option. Russia, meanwhile, said Western nations calling for military action have no proof the Syrian government was behind any chemical attacks.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said one of the UN vehicles was "deliberately shot at multiple times" in the buffer zone area between rebel and government-controlled territory. He said the car was "no longer serviceable" after the shooting, forcing the team to return to a government checkpoint to replace the vehicle.
The Syrian government said it "holds the terrorist gangs responsible for the safety of the United Nations team." The Syrian regime routinely refers to rebels fighting to topple president Assad as terrorists.
US Secretary of State John Kerry says chemical weapons were used in Syria and accused Assad of destroying evidence. Mr Kerry called last week's attack a "moral obscenity" that should shock the conscience of the world. He said the US has additional information about the attack and will make it public in the days ahead.
Meanwhile, Tony Blair has warned that allowing the enduring controversy over the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 to hold back military intervention in Syria could help produce a "nightmare scenario" for the West in the Middle East, . The ex-prime minister who took the decision for British troops to join the US-led action, who is now the Middle East peace envoy for the US, Russia, the EU and the United Nations, said it was vital to "take sides" against the Assad regime and in other regional disputes.