Middle East

Syria crisis: France, US and UK eye 'strong' UN resolution

France, Britain and the US are to seek a "strong" UN resolution with "serious consequences" if Syria fails to hand over its chemical weapons.

But Russia has warned that threatening Syria may "wreck" the peace talks.

Under a deal brokered by Russia and the US, Syria has agreed to disclose its full chemical arms arsenal within a week and eliminate it by mid-2014.

UN investigators have said they are probing 14 alleged chemical attacks in Syria since September 2011.

The US had threatened military action against the Syrian government over a chemical attack in Damascus on 21 August which is reported to have killed hundreds of people.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied allegations his government was behind the attack, accusing the rebels of carrying it out.

UN weapons inspectors who visited the scene of the attack are due to release their findings later on Monday, though their remit does not involve assigning blame.

Associated Press news agency said it had seen the first page of the report, which will confirm chemical weapons had been used "between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic".

"The environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used... in the Ghouta area of Damascus", the report is quoted as saying.

'Precise timetable'

French President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met British Foreign Secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris on Monday to discuss the crisis.

They agreed there had to be a "precise timetable" for the dismantling of weapons in Syria.

The UN Security Council is expected to draft a resolution for the Syrian deal in the coming days.

"We want to obtain a strong resolution from the UN Security Council, a resolution that will support the plan for chemical disarmament with all the authority of the Council, a resolution that includes serious consequences if the plan is not implemented and, finally, a resolution that will also reaffirm that those responsible for the massacre on 21 August be held accountable," Mr Fabius said in a joint press conference after the meeting.

Meanwhile Mr Kerry said the resolution had to be "forceful, accountable, transparent and timely".

"If the Assad regime believes that this is not enforceable and we are not serious, they will play games," he told reporters in Paris.

"It is significant that three permanent members of the Security Council are standing here together joined in unity, purpose and understanding of what needs to be done."

Mr Kerry added that all the countries involved, including Russia, had agreed that military intervention could be an option "should diplomacy fail".

"The framework fully commits the United States and Russia to impose measures under Chapter 7 of the UN charter in the event of non-compliance."

Chapter 7 permits military action if other measures do not succeed.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said any calls for swift UN action against Mr Assad showed a "lack of understanding" of the chemical weapons deal reached with Syria.

Mr Lavrov said: "Yes, our American colleagues would very much like there to be a Chapter 7 resolution. But the final declaration, the final document that we approved and which has the guiding principles for how we proceed and for our mutual obligations, makes no mention of it."

War crimes

Meanwhile, Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said it had been investigating 14 alleged chemical attacks since it began monitoring Syrian human rights abuses in September 2011.

Mr Pinheiro said investigators had not so far been able to assign blame and were awaiting details from the UN report being released later on Monday.

He said the commission believed both President Assad's government and the rebels were responsible for war crimes, but that the regime alone had perpetrated crimes against humanity.

War crimes, including mass executions, rape and torture, were continuing, a commission study says.

Its investigators said a referral to the International Criminal Court was imperative.

Syria agreed last week to join the global Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production and use of the weapons. It will come under the treaty from 14 October, the UN announced.

The framework deal was announced on Saturday after three days of talks in Geneva between Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov.

Syrian Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar welcomed the agreement, calling it a "victory for Syria achieved thanks to our Russian friends".

More than 100,000 people have died since the uprising against President Assad began in 2011.

Millions of Syrians have fled the country, mostly to neighbouring nations and millions more have been internally displaced within Syria.