United Nations experts are investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria as the United States and its allies prepare for the possibility of a punitive strike against President Bashar Assad’s regime, blamed by the Syrian opposition for the attack. The international aid group Doctors Without Borders says at least 355 people were killed in the Aug. 21 attack in a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Here’s a look at key Syria developments around the world Friday amid heightened tensions over potential military action:
Treasury chief George Osborne warned that Britain should not turn its back on the world after the stunning parliamentary defeat of a government motion for military intervention in Syria. He told the BBC there will be “national soul-searching” about Britain’s global role after the “no” vote.
French President Francois Hollande said his country can go ahead with plans to strike Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons despite the British parliament’s failure to endorse military action. He told the newspaper Le Monde that the “chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished.”
U.N. experts began what is expected to be the last day of their investigation into the Aug. 21 attack. After an early morning delay, three U.N. vehicles left a Damascus hotel for more on-site visits. It was not immediately known where they were going.
Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Russia would vote against any United Nations Security Council resolution approving military strikes on Syria. He told the state ITAR-TASS news agency that efforts must be made to prevent any use of force against Syria.
President Barack Obama prepared for the possibility of launching unilateral American military action against Syria within days as Britain opted out. Top U.S. officials spoke with certain lawmakers for more than 90 minutes in a teleconference Thursday evening to explain why they believe Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government was the culprit in the suspected chemical attack last week.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany has no plans to take part in any military action against Syria. He told reporters in Berlin that “we haven’t considered any German military participation and still aren’t doing so.”
Supporters of Assad planned a rally after Friday prayers at Tehran University. The demonstration was not directly backed by the Iranian government, which is a close Syria ally, but the protest would not be allowed to take place without permission from authorities.