The Latest: Rebel official says UN 'responsible' for deaths

BEIRUT (AP) " The Latest on the suspected chemical attack in Syria (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

A top Syrian rebel representative says he holds U.N. mediator Staffan De Mistura "personally responsible" for the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed more than 70 people in northern Syria one day ago.

Mohammad Alloush, the rebels' chief negotiator at U.N.-mediated talks with the Syrian government, said the U.N.'s Special Envoy for Syria's must begin labeling the Syrian government as responsible for killing civilians. He said U.N.'s silence "legitimizes" the strategy.

"The true solution for Syria is to put (Syrian President) Bashar Assad the chemical weapons user in court, and not at the negotiations table," said Alloush, who is an official in the Islam Army faction among the Syrian rebels.

Syria's rebels, and the Islam Army in particular, are also accused of killing civilians in Syria, but rights watchdogs attribute the overwhelming portion of civilian causalities over the course of the six-year-war to the actions of government forces and their allies.

___

5:10 p.m.

A proposed U.N. Security Council resolution would condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria and stress the government's obligation to provide information about air operations on Tuesday when a suspected chemical attack killed dozens of people.

The resolution drafted by Britain, France and the United States would also stress Syria's requirement to give investigators the names of those in command of any helicopter squadrons on April 4.

And it calls for immediate access for investigators to air bases where attacks involving chemical weapons may have been launched.

Sponsors were hoping for a vote as early as Wednesday afternoon on the draft resolution.

The Security Council was holding an emergency meeting on the suspected attack in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province, one of the deadliest in the six-year civil war.

___

5 p.m.

The Russian Foreign Ministry says it opposes a Western draft U.N. resolution condemning a chemical attack in Syria.

The ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said Wednesday the draft blames the Syrian government for Tuesday's attack without any credible investigation.

Zakharova said that video and photo evidence of the attack presented by volunteer first responders could have been fabricated. She blamed the West for staging a "political show" and called for an international probe.

Tuesday's attack on Khan Sheikhoun has killed 72, causing an international outcry. Washington has put the blame on the Syrian government, saying that President Bashar Assad's patrons, Russia and Iran, bore "great moral responsibility" for it.

The Russian military said the chemicals were released after Syrian warplanes bombed a facility where rebels were making their own chemical weapons.

___

4:15 p.m.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says Britain and the United States were wrong when they failed to act against Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2013 after he crossed their "red line" and used chemical weapons.

Speaking at a donor conference for Syria a day after a new suspected chemical attack killed dozens of people, Johnson said "we are living today with the consequences, and I'm afraid the people of Syria are living today with the consequences, of that decision."

He said that with an estimated 400,000 people killed in Syria's six-year conflict, Assad has to go.

Johnson said Assad "is responsible for the vast majority of that butcher's bill, and you have to go back a long way in history to find a tyrant who has stayed in office in such circumstances."

___

4 p.m.

Russia says it will submit information from its Defense Ministry to a U.N. Security Council session called to discuss a suspected chemical attack in Syria that killed dozens of people.

Western countries say evidence indicates that Syrian pro-government forces were behind Tuesday's attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Russia is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and is waging an air campaign on his behalf.

The Russian military has said the chemicals were released after Syrian warplanes bombed a facility where rebels were making their own chemical weapons.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said that at the U.N. meeting Russia "will at least cite in a well-argued manner those data that were mentioned by our Defense Ministry."

___

3 p.m.

French president Francois Hollande is condemning what he calls a "war crime" after a suspected chemical attack in Syria.

Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll reported Hollande's comments Wednesday during a weekly Cabinet meeting.

Hollande recalled that France had pushed for an international military campaign against Syrian President Bashar Assad over his use of chemical weapons in 2013.

"France has not changed its position on this issue", he said according to Le Foll.

France has supported Syrian rebels against Assad for years.

___

2:40 p.m.

Turkish officials have raised the number of Syrians being treated in Turkey after a suspected chemical attack to 58.

A statement from the governor's office for the border province of Hatay says Wednesday the victims are being treated in several state and private hospitals in the towns of Antakya, Reyhanli and Iskenderun.

The statement did not provide any detail on their conditions.

Earlier, Turkey's health minister said about 30 people had been brought to Turkey and that the initial findings and symptoms pointed to a chemical attack.

He said Turkey was sharing its findings with the World Health Organization.

___

2:10 p.m.

The EU Council president has condemned a suspected chemical attack that killed dozens of people in an opposition-held town in northern Syria.

Donald Tusk says Tuesday's attack in Khan Sheikhoun is "another reminder of the brutality" of Syria's regime and the perpetrators must be held accountable.

Tusk said Wednesday that the Syrian regime bears "the primary responsibility for the atrocities," but also blamed supporters of President Bashar Assad's government who he said share the "moral and political responsibility."

Assad's government has denied involvement in the attack, saying it does not possess chemical weapons, and laid the blame on rebel forces.

Tusk spoke in Athens, following talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

___

1:45 p.m.

A pair of Israeli lawmakers is urging parliaments around the world to hold "emergency" discussions on the suspected chemical attack in Syria.

Erel Margalit and Nachman Shai, both members of the opposition Zionist Union, sent their request to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organization of national parliaments around the world.

In Tuesday's letter, they urged fellow parliamentarians to condemn the alleged attack, which they said is "taking humanity 70 years backwards."

"The day when mass extermination measures are taken against people is the day when we as members of parliaments should stand fierce in the fire front and stop the horror," they wrote.

Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting in neighboring Syria, though it has carried out airstrikes on suspected arms shipments to Syrian ally Hezbollah.

___

12:20 p.m.

Pope Francis has called a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens, including many children, in Syria "an unacceptable massacre."

The pope said Wednesday during his general audience that he was "watching with horror at the latest events in Syria," and said he "strongly deplored the unacceptable massacre."

He called on the "conscious of those with political responsibility both locally and internationally to cease this tragedy and bring relief to that dear population that for too long has been exhausted by war."

He also encouraged those bringing aid to the stricken population "even amid insecurity and discomfort."

___

12 p.m.

NATO's chief is condemning the chemical attack in northern Syria and calling for those responsible to be held to account.

Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement Wednesday that "this is the third report of the use of these barbaric weapons in the last month alone."

He recalled that the use of chemical weapons is prohibited and that "this international norm must be fully respected and upheld."

He said Syria "is responsible to ensure its full compliance with these obligations."

___

11:40 p.m.

Turkey's health minister says some 30 Syrians have been brought to the Turkish city of Gaziantep, bordering Syria, for treatment following a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Recep Akdag said Wednesday that initial symptoms and findings confirm that the wounded were the victims of a chemical attack. His comments were reported by the Haber Turk news channel.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that at least 72 people died, including 11 children, in Tuesday's attack in a rebel-held town in northern Syria.

___

11:30 p.m.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri says people should not be shocked by the chemical attack that killed dozens in Syria because the international community is allowing such acts to happen.

Hariri said Wednesday that "the world should not be shocked because it's letting such a regime do what it is doing. What should shock us is the increase of children dying and that the whole world is watching."

He told reporters at a Syria donor conference in Belgium that "everyone is coming to Brussels to make a statement and the regime made its statement in Syria."

Hariri also said that Lebanon has been overwhelmed by the arrival of some 1.5 million Syrian refugees and "cannot sustain this issue anymore. The international community has to do something."

___

11:20

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has called on Russia to endorse a planned United Nations Security Council resolution condemning a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Gabriel said Wednesday in Brussels before the opening of the international conference on the Syria conflict that, "We appeal to Russia to approve this resolution, to investigate this case and to bring to justice those who are responsible."

The U.N. Security Council is to convene for an emergency meeting over a suspected deadly chemical attack in a town in northern Syria earlier this week, where at least 72 people were reported killed, including 11 children.

Nearly 400,000 people have been killed and half of Syria's population has been displaced by the six-year conflict.

___

11:10 a.m.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria the day before is a "moment of truth" that must be investigated.

Hs remarks came as a Syrian monitoring group said the death toll from the attack on a northern town the previous day has increased to 72 and activists reported renewed airstrikes on the same town.

Guterres told reporters at a Syria donor conference in Brussels on Wednesday that he hopes "this moment will be able to mobilize the capacity of all those that have responsibilities in this situation."

He says "the horrific events of yesterday demonstrate that unfortunately war crimes are going on in Syria, that international humanitarian law remains being violated frequently."

He added he is "confident that the Security Council will live up to its responsibilities," with major powers set to convene there later in the day.

___

9:50 a.m.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says that "all the evidence" he had seen so far in the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria "suggests this was the Assad regime who did it in the full knowledge that they were using illegal weapons in a barbaric attack on their own people."

Johnson also says that he does "not see how a government like that can continue to have any kind of legitimate administration over the people of Syria."

He added that he "would like to see those culpable pay a price for this."

Johnson spoke on Wednesday at the start of a Brussels pledging conference for Syria, where the United Nations, EU and world financial institutions have begun technical work to figure out what will be needed to rebuild war-ravaged Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that at least 58 people died, including 11 children, in Tuesday's chemical weapons attack in a rebel-held town in northern Syria.

___

8:10 a.m.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says his government condemns in the strongest possible terms the chemical weapons attack against civilians, including children, at Khan Sheikhoun.

He said in a statement Wednesday that the use of chemical weapons is "illegal and abhorrent."

He said, "While the full facts are still to be determined, if the Assad regime is responsible for this attack those who approved and deployed these weapons must be held accountable."

___

4 a.m.

The Russian Defense Ministry says a rebel-held town in northern Syria has been exposed to toxic agents from a rebel arsenal hit by a Syrian air strike.

The ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement early Wednesday that the Russian military assets registered a Syrian air force strike Tuesday on weapons depots and ammunition factory on the eastern outskirts of the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Konashenkov said chemical weapons produced by the factory were used in Iraq.

He added that the same type of chemical weapons had been previously used by the rebels in Aleppo, where they had caused symptoms similar to those seen in images from Khan Sheikhoun.

Konashenkov said that Russia had provided relevant ground samples from Aleppo to the international chemical weapons watchdog.

The Russian statement follows an international outcry over what was described as a chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 58 people died, including 11 children.

Both Russia and Syria both have denied launching the chemical attack.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 29 May 2017 02:54:18 Processing Time: 702ms