Chemical attack in Syria yet to be confirmed: UN Security Council
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The United Nations Security Council says it seeks clarity on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government in an attack near Damascus. On Wednesday, the international body held a meeting behind closed doors regarding allegations of a pre-dawn attack on the eastern suburbs of the capital. Syria's opposition claimed earlier in the day that around 1,300 people were killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar. "There is a strong concern among council members about the allegations and a general sense that there must be clarity on what happened and the situation must be followed closely," said Argentinean Ambassador to the UN Maria Cristina Perceval, who is the president of the council this month, at a press conference following the meeting. Perceval did not call for an investigation into the matter but welcomed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's "determination" to launch a probe. "The members of the Security Council also welcomed the determination of the secretary general to ensure a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation," she said. Meanwhile, the Syrian government and the army denied any role in the alleged chemical attack. The United States, the European Union, Britain and France have expressed concern over the attack, calling for an investigation into the incident. Meanwhile, Israeli Minister for Military Affairs Moshe Yaalon accused the Syrian army of being behind the attack. Russia also called for an objective and professional investigation into the alleged attack, adding that previous such reports have proven false. Reports of the alleged attack were issued just as a UN chemical weapons inspection team arrived in Syria, making "us think that we are once again dealing with a premeditated provocation," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement. In July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that foreign-backed militants used chemical weapons in the region of Khan al-Assal on March 19, killing over two dozen people, including 16 Syrian troops. "Our experts took samples on the spot and studied them in the very lab which is certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and came to the conclusion that both the shell and the sarin it contained were home-made," the Russian foreign minister said. "According to our additional information, these shells and the substance were made last February in the Syrian territory which at that time was under the control of the Free Syrian Army and made by one of the affiliated armed groups," Lavrov added. Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria. According to the UN, more than 100,000 people have been killed and a total of 7.8 million of others displaced due to the violence.