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UN says snipers shot at its vehicle near Damascus


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U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking to reporters Monday after meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, said Monday the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama was studying intelligence on Syria’s purported use of chemical weapons and "will get the facts" before acting.

Hagel said Obama "is considering all different options" and that "if there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of a legal justification."

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Assad told Russia’s Izvestia daily that accusations that his troops used chemicals were "politically motivated."

"This is nonsense," Assad was quoted as saying in the interview published Monday. "First they level the accusations, and only then they start collecting evidence."

Assad said that attacking such an area with chemical weapons would not make sense for the government as there was no clear front line between regime and rebel forces.

"How can the government use chemical weapons, or any other weapons of mass destruction, in an area where its troops are situated?" he asked.

The U.N. team’s conclusions could have a dramatic impact on the trajectory of the country’s civil war.

Speaking to reporters in the South Korean capital of Seoul, the U.N. secretary-general said that "any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances is a serious violation of international law and an outrageous crime. We cannot allow impunity in what appears to be a grave crime against humanity."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said no decision had been made on a military intervention but that any response would be "proportionate."

"It will be negotiated in coming days," Fabius told Europe 1 radio on Monday. He said that the lack of a U.N. blessing was problematic, but that all options remain on the table.


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"The only option that I can’t imagine would be to do nothing," Fabius said.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said diplomatic pressure has not worked on Syria’s government, adding that a response was still possible without complete unity in the U.N. Security Council.

Also Monday, the German government suggested for the first time that it would support an international military response it the attack were confirmed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday that if U.N. inspectors learn chemical weapons were used, "it must be punished."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey would take part in an international coalition against Assad if the U.N. failed to come up with sanctions to punish Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons. Turkey has been one of Assad’s harshest critics.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei lavrov, however, said the countries calling for military action have assumed the role of "both investigators and the U.N. Security Council" in probing the incident.

Lavrov likened the situation in Syria to the run-up to the 2003 military operation in Iraq. He said "the use of force without a sanction of the U.N. Security Council is a crude violation of the international law."

Assad said in the interview that a military campaign against his country will not succeed.

"They can start a war but they will not know where it will spread or how it will end," Assad said. "Superpowers can launch wars but they cannot win them."

Asked what the US. would face in any intervention, Assad answered: "What it suffered in all its wars from Vietnam until now. Failure."



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