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France, Britain say UN must access alleged Syria attack site

by FP Staff  Aug 22, 2013 02:46 IST

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Britain said on Wednesday that United Nations inspectors currently in Syria should be allowed immediate access to the site of an alleged deadly chemical weapons attack.

Syria's opposition accused government forces of gassing many hundreds of people - by one report as many as 1,300 - in a pre-dawn attack on Wednesday. The government of President Bashar al-Assad denied using chemical weapons.

"I hope this will wake up some who have supported the Assad regime to realise its murderous and barbaric nature," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters in Paris.

"We hope the U.N. team in Damascus will be given immediate and unrestricted access to this area to try and establish the truth. There is no reason not to be given access when (the site) is not so many miles from where they are doing their work now," he added, heading into a working dinner with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

Fabius, who earlier spoke over the phone with the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, called the alleged attack "a horrendous tragedy" not seen since thousands of Iraqi Kurds were gassed by Saddam Hussein's forces at Halabja in 1988.

The U.N. Security Council, of which Britain and France are permanent members, will hold an emergency meeting at 1900 GMT to discuss the alleged attack.

(Reporting by John Irish,; Editing by Andrew Heavens)