Increasing signs that Assad used chemical weapons in Syria: US, UK

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke on the matter for over 40 minutes on telephone.

Zee Media Bureau

Washington: In wake of allegations of chemical weapons attack in Syria, US and UK on Sunday expressed regret over the "increasing signs" that "a significant chemical weapons attack" was carried out by Assad regime and warned that it would merit a `serious response`.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke on the matter for over 40 minutes on telephone.

According to a statement from UK PM`s office at No. 10 Downing Street, Obama and Cameron "reiterated that significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response from the international community".

"They agreed that it is vital that the world upholds the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons and deters further outrages. They agreed to keep in close contact on the issue," a Downing Street spokesperson, said.

Both the countries stand united in their opposition to the use of chemical weapons, the White House said, adding that Obama and Cameroon spoke on the shared security challenges faced by them.

"The two leaders expressed their grave concern about the reported use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against civilians near Damascus on Wednesday, August 21," it said.

"The President and Prime Minister will continue to consult closely regarding this incident, as well as possible responses by the international community to the use of chemical weapons," the White House said.

Earlier in the day, Obama during the Situation Room meeting received a detailed review of a range of potential options he had requested be prepared for the US and the international community to respond to the use of chemical weapons, the White House said.

As an aid group pegged the death toll from a purported chemical attack in Syria`s Ghouta on Wednesday at 355, the Obama Administration is considering all options on possible military action.

The American naval forces continued to inch nearer to Syria even as Obama emphasized that a quick intervention in the Syrian civil war was problematic, given the international considerations that should precede a military strike.

According to further reports, the US Navy had sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea but without immediate orders for any missile launch into Syria.

Syria has meanwhile reacted to US move by saying that any American intervention would burn the entire Mideast.

Syria`s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said in an interview, "The basic repercussion would be a ball of fire that would burn not only Syria but the whole Middle East. An attack on Syria would be no easy trip".

Iran too has echoed similar warning saying "Sending warships will not solve the problems but will worsen the situation".

With the pressure mounting on Assad regime, Syria state media accused rebels in the contested district of Jobar near Damascus of using chemical weapons against government troops Saturday.

State TV broadcast images of plastic jugs, gas masks, vials of an unspecified medication, explosives and other items that it said were seized from rebel hideouts Saturday.

One barrel had "made in Saudi Arabia" stamped on it. The TV report also showed medicines said to be produced by a Qatari-German medical supplies company. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are strong supporters of the Syrian rebels. The report could not be immediately verified.

An army statement issued late Saturday said the discovery of the weapons "is clear evidence that these gangs are using chemical weapons against our people and soldiers with help from foreign sides."

Top Syrian rebel commander Salim Idris refuted government`s allegations saying that opposition forces did not use chemical weapons on Saturday and that "the regime is lying."

In France, Doctors Without Borders said three hospitals it supports in the eastern Damascus region reported receiving roughly 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms" over less than three hours on Wednesday morning, when the attack in the eastern Ghouta area took place.

Of those, 355 died, the Paris-based group said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that its estimated death toll from the alleged chemical attack had reached 322, including 54 children, 82 women and dozens of fighters. It said the dead included 16 people who have not been identified.

With Agency Inputs