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UN chief warns against war as world probes Syria gas attack

AFP  |  United Nations 

The today warned against a "full-blown military escalation" in Syria, as and the said an alleged must not go unanswered.

warned the West not to make any "dangerous" moves against its ally Bashar al-Assad's regime and claimed to have proof that the attack had been staged by rescue workers acting on Britain's behalf.

Experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of (OPCW) are on their way to to probe the alleged chlorine strike on the then rebel-held suburb of Douma, which took place nearly a week ago.

But, with the now estimating that the death toll from the attack has risen to 75, US and other western leaders are contemplating punitive military action.

This would increase the risk of a clash with the Russian forces in to defend Assad, and UN warned the to beware a "full-blown military escalation."

But France's UN told the council that in choosing once again to use banned against civilians, Assad's regime had "reached a point of no-return." And US Nikki Haley, while allowing that is still weighing its options and pursuing its own investigation, warned her colleagues, "At one point, you have to do something."

Russia, in addition to tossing out unproven allegations against Britain, alleged the West was feigning outrage over the attack as a cover for a plan to overthrow

"We continue to observe dangerous military preparations for an illegal act of force against a sovereign state," Russian told the

Tension between and the West came amid signs the parallel conflict between and Iran's forces and proxies in is also on the point of escalation.

Earlier this week, bombed a Syrian airbase used by Assad's regional allies, killing at least seven Iranians, and prompting threats from and its ally Hezbollah.

"The Israelis carried out a historic mistake ... and put themselves in direct combat with Iran," Hezbollah warned on Friday in a televised address.

But the growing fears of escalation appear to have given western for thought.

After warning in a belligerent tweet earlier this week that "missiles are coming," Trump has backed off from talk of imminent action and is meeting with military commanders to look at options.

France's Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, on Friday called for stepped-up talks with and spoke to by phone.

"The most important thing is to refrain from ill-considered and dangerous actions that would constitute a gross violation of the UN Charter and would have unpredictable consequences," the Kremlin said.

Macron claimed in a TV interview Thursday that he had "proof" that Assad's regime had used and vowed a response "in due course." But he also appeared anxious to avoid a wider conflict, saying would "in no way allow an escalation." Western officials believe chlorine was used in the April 7 attack on Douma, the main city in the former rebel

What is less clear is whether sarin, the agent used in a that prompted US missile strikes last year, was also used.

Russia, which has stonewalled diplomatic efforts at the UN Security Council, has vehemently denied a took place.

OPCW inspectors are expected to arrive in Syria at the weekend to investigate, following an invitation from Diplomats have expressed concern that the experts could be used as hostages or human shields.

Since last weekend, when images of ashen toddlers struggling for breath emerged, there has been a sustained military buildup in the

A French frigate, submarines and the USS Donald Cook, an American destroyer equipped with Tomahawk land attack missiles, have all moved into range of Syria's coast.

US officials have refused to rule out direct military engagement with

On the ground, rebels and civilians were evacuating from Douma on Friday after anti-regime fighters in Eastern Ghouta surrendered their heavy weapons and their left the enclave.

This signalled the end of one of the bloodiest assaults of the seven-year war and a major win for the Assad regime.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, April 14 2018. 00:20 IST