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United Nations, United States - UN leader Ban Ki-moon warned on Tuesday that a western military strike could worsen the Syria conflict, but called on the divided UN Security Council to unite against the use of chemical arms.
Without explicitly opposing any military operation that the United States and some of its allies are considering, Ban urged caution.
“I take note of the argument for action to prevent future use of chemical weapons,” Ban told a press briefing at UN headquarters before heading to the Group of 20 summit in Russia.
“At the same time, we must consider the impact of any punitive measure on efforts to prevent further bloodshed,” Ban said.
“Everything should be handled within the framework of the United Nations Charter,” he added.
“The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and, or when the Security Council approves such action.”
Syria, which is backed by Russia, wrote to Ban on Monday calling on him to prevent a US military strike, its UN envoy Bashar Jaafari said.
Among the five permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China strongly oppose a military strike. The United States and France have backed a strike. The British government said it was ready to join action until its parliament voted against such a move.
Ban said the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria meant the council now has a duty to overcome the bitter divisions dating back to the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.
“The Security Council has a duty to move beyond the current stalemate and show leadership,” said Ban.
“This is a larger issue than the conflict in Syria. This is about our collective responsibility to human kind. Whatever the source, this latest escalation should be a wake-up call to the international community. We must put an end to the atrocities the Syria people continue to suffer,” Ban said.
“Our common humanity compels us to ensure that chemical weapons do not become a tool of war or terror in the 21st century. Any perpetrators must be brought to justice. There should be no impunity,” Ban said.
The UN leader said that chemical weapons experts were working “urgently” to determine whether banned poison gas was used at Ghouta, near Damascus, in an attack on August 21.
The United States and France says it has proof that Assad's forces used chemical weapons in Ghouta.
Ban said samples collected by UN examples in Syria last week would all be in laboratories in Europe by Wednesday.
The Syrian government has denied using chemical arms, blaming the reported attacks in the conflict on opposition rebels. - Sapa-AFP