U.N. Chief Reaffirms Opposition to Strike on Syria

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Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said Tuesday that he appreciated President Obama's efforts to engage Congress and the American people before deciding on possible armed strikes against Syria over chemical weapons use, but reaffirmed his opposition to any further military action without Security Council approval.

Speaking to reporters during a short news conference at United Nations headquarters in New York before he departed for the Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, this week, Mr. Ban also said a team of United Nations chemical weapons inspectors who left Syria on Saturday had been working "around the clock" to analyze the evidence they had gathered from the site of an Aug. 21 attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. But Mr. Ban declined to specify when their results would be known.

It was Mr. Ban's first public reaction to Mr. Obama's announcement on Saturday that he believed that he had the authority to order a strike against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, but would first seek the approval of Congress, where there is deep skepticism by Democrats and Republicans.

Earlier Tuesday, top Congressional leaders expressed support for Mr. Obama's proposal for a limited course of military action in the Syrian war, which began more than two years ago and has left more than 100,000 people dead, 2 million refugees and more than 4 million people displaced inside the country.

Asked if Mr. Obama's proposal would be illegal under the United Nations Charter, Mr. Ban answered: "I have taken note of President Obama's statement, and I appreciate efforts to have his future course of action based on the broad opinions of the American people, particularly Congress, and I hope this process will have good results."

He did not specify what he meant by "good results."

Mr. Ban also reiterated, "We should avoid further militarization of the conflict, revitalize the search for a political settlement."

Asked why the scope of the chemical weapons investigation had been limited to whether the banned munitions had been deployed -- and did not address the question of who had used them -- Mr. Ban said that was his decision. "It was not to determine who has used against whom," he said. The investigation was based on internationally recognized protocols, he said.

"This is a larger issue than the conflict in Syria," he said. "This is about our collective responsibility to humankind."

He also said the Security Council, which has the authority to order military action, should "unite and develop an appropriate response should the allegations prove to be true."

The Security Council's five permanent members have been deadlocked on Syria policy since the conflict began, with Russia and China repeatedly blocking resolutions advanced by the other three -- Britain, France, and the United States -- that would open the door to outside military intervention.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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