The Obama administration joined Great Britain and France on Wednesday in pressing the United Nations for an “urgent investigation” into allegations of a mass chemical weapons attack in Syria.
The joint letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon comes as the Security Council failed to issue a strong condemnation following reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces may have killed hundreds of civilians with the worst poison gas attack in two decades. Instead, Council President Maria Cristina Perceval of Argentina issued a terse report to the press Wednesday evening calling for “clarity.”
"There was also an agreement for a strong call for a cessation of hostilities and for a cease-fire. The members of the Security Council also welcomed the determination of the Secretary-General to insure a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation," she said.
Stronger U.N. language was stymied by opposition from Assad ally Russia.
The United States, France and Great Britain appealed directly to Ban to probe the latest allegations. A team of U.N. experts arrived in Syria on Sunday to investigate previous allegations of chemical weapons use.
“Given the gravity of these reports, we judge it essential that all the pertinent facts are swiftly investigated,” reads the letter, which was signed by Rosemary DiCarlo, the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. mission to the U.N. “We therefore request that you launch an urgent investigation into these allegations as expeditiously as possible under the auspices of the Secretary General’s Mechanism for the Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons … and report back to Member States as soon as possible.”
Some three dozen countries are believed to have signed the letter.
The White House said Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” by the latest reports. Critics on both sides of the aisle said the administration emboldened Assad by failing to act decisively after determining two months ago that he'd crossed Obama's “red line” and used chemical weapons.
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