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Dhaka Tribune

UN envoy arrives in Syria for talks on chemical probe

Update : 24 Aug 2013, 07:30 PM

UN Under Secretary General Angela Kane arrived in Syria’s capital Saturday for talks aimed at establishing the terms of an inquiry into alleged chemical weapons attacks.

Kane’s visit comes after UN chief Ban Ki-moon handed her the task and called for Syria’s regime and its opponents to cooperate in the UN efforts to establish an investigation into the attacks said to have killed hundreds of people near Damascus on Wednesday.

President Hassan Rowhani of Iran, Damascus’s chief regional ally, earlier pointed to the use of chemical weapons in Syria for the first time, three days after the deadly attacks that a growing number of Western states are blaming on the Syrian government.

Against that backdrop, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel strongly suggested the Pentagon was moving forces into place ahead of possible military action against Syria, even as President Barack Obama voiced caution.

US commanders have nevertheless prepared a range of “options” for Obama if he chooses to proceed with military strikes against Damascus, Hagel told reporters aboard his plane en route to Malaysia on Friday.

“The Defence Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies,” he said.

“And that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets to be able to carry out different options – whatever the president might choose.”

But Hagel declined to provide any details on the positioning of US ships, aircraft or troops, as the Obama administration reportedly contemplated cruise missile strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Ban Ki-moon stepped up the pressure by announcing that Under Secretary General Angela Kane was headed to Damascus for talks, his spokesman said.

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