UN showdown set over action against Syria

UN showdown set over action against Syria
Free Syrian Army fighters hold up their weapons as they cheer after seizing Aleppo's town of Khanasir.

DAMASCUS - Bashar al-Assad's friends and foes headed for a showdown at the United Nations Wednesday, as Britain pushes for a resolution to pave the way for military strikes over suspected chemical attacks.

The meeting comes as the United States and its allies pressed their case for likely military action against the Syrian president's regime, despite stern warnings against intervention from key Damascus supporters Russia and Iran.

Prime Minister David Cameron said London would present a resolution "condemning the chemical weapons attack by Assad" to a meeting of the Security Council's five permanent members in New York on Wednesday.

"We've always said we want the UN Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on Syria. Today they have an opportunity to do that," he said via Twitter.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged the Council to "find the unity to act... to use its authority for peace".

But the prospects for a quick, much less positive, vote on the draft resolution look dim.

Close Damascus ally Russia, which has already used its veto to block resolutions condemning Syria, said Wednesday it was premature for the Council to act before a UN team inspecting the sites of the alleged attacks releases its findings.

UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi confirmed that chemical "substances" were used in the attacks that are thought to have killed hundreds of people on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

And inspectors headed Wednesday to Eastern Ghouta, a site of one of the reported attacks, after delaying their work for a day over security concerns.

Brahimi added that any military action must have UN approval.

"I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council," he said.

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