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UN envoy arrives in Syria for talks on chemical weapons probe

Meanwhile the US Defence Secretary has suggested that forces are being moved into place in case Obama opts for military action.

Syrian protesters carry a placards showing dead Syrian children, during a protest in front of the Syrian embassy in Jordan.
Syrian protesters carry a placards showing dead Syrian children, during a protest in front of the Syrian embassy in Jordan.
Image: Mohammad Hannon/AP/PA

UNITED NATIONS UNDER Secretary General Angela Kane arrived in Syria’s capital today for talks aimed at establishing the terms of an inquiry into alleged chemical weapons attacks, an AFP journalist said.

Kane did not comment to reporters as she entered the Four Seasons hotel, only a few kilometres away from the site of Wednesday’s reported chemical weapons strikes.

Her 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.

Opponents of Bashar al-Assad said the president’s forces killed 1,300 people when they unleased chemical weapons east and southwest of Damascus in the attacks on Wednesday.

Today the Iranian president Hassan Rowhani also pointed to the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for the international community to “do everything to stop the use of these weapons anywhere in the world”.

US intervention

Meanwhile, the United States’ Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has suggeted that the Pentagon is moving forces into place in case President Barack Obama opts for military action against Syria.

US commanders have prepared a range of “options” for Obama if he chooses to launch an attack on the Damascus regime, Hagel told reporters aboard his plane en route to Malaysia.

But he declined to provide any details on the positioning of US troops and assets amid escalation in the Syrian civil war.

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

He spoke as a defense official said the US Navy will expand its presence in the Mediterranean with a fourth warship armed with cruise missiles.

“The president has asked the Defense Department for options. Like always, the Defence Department is prepared and has been prepared to provide all options for all contingencies to the president of the United States,” Hagel said.

The Pentagon chief and other defense officials made clear no decision had been taken on whether to employ military force against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

- © AFP 2013 with additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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