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Syria agrees to UN chemical weapons investigation


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So far, the U.S. has largely limited its support for the rebels to non-lethal supplies. In June, Washington said it would begin sending weapons to the rebels, although there’s no indication that has happened yet.

Russia, a close ally of the Assad regime, welcomed Syria’s decision to allow a U.N. probe, and said the U.S. should await the findings and realize that a unilateral use of force would be a mistake.

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Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Washington and European partners shouldn’t take a "gamble" that could have "catastrophic consequences" for Syria and the region as a whole.

In Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the United States was using allegations of chemical attacks as an "excuse" to intervene in Syria, accusing Washington and Europe of turning a blind eye while Saudi Arabia and Turkey — both backers of the anti-Assad rebellion — provide chemical weapons to foreign jihadi fighters in Syria.

"The materials are coming from Saudi Arabia and Turkey," al-Zoubi said in an interview with The Associated Press in the Syrian capital, adding that foreign fighters were carrying out chemical attacks to implicate the Syrian government in hopes of prompting international military intervention.

"Instead of the Americans searching for the source of these chemical weapons in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, they wait for them to be used to give a pretext to intervene in Syria," he said.

Iran, a close ally of the Assad regime, warned against a possible U.S. military move against Syria. The semi-official Fars news agency quoted Gen. Masoud Jazayeri as warning that "trespassing over the red line in Syria will have severe consequences for the White House." He did not elaborate.

Doctors Without Borders said that three hospitals it supports in the area of the attack reported receiving roughly 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms" over a three-hour period Wednesday. Of those, 355 died, the Paris-based group said.

That roughly coincided with the death toll given by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tallied 322 killed. Casualty figures have varied widely over the alleged attack, from just over 300 to around 1,300 killed.

Rebels on the ground outraged by the images coming out of the Damascus suburbs have also threatened to take forceful action.


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On Sunday, the head of an al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebel group vowed to target villages inhabited by members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect to avenge the purported chemical weapons attack.

In an audio recording posted on a website frequently used by Islamic extremists, Jabhat al-Nusra leader, Abu Mohammed al-Golani, said: "Revenge for the blood of your children is a debt to be paid back ... 1,000 rockets will be fired at them in revenge for the massacre of Ghouta."

The authenticity of the claim could not be immediately verified.

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Lucas reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten in Paris, Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, and Kimberly Dozier and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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