Syria says UN inspection delayed until Wednesday
DAMASCUS - Agence France-Presse
In this image taken from amateur video posted online, appearing to show a presumed UN staff member measuring and photographing a canister in the suburb of Moadamiyeh in Damascus, Syria, Monday Aug. 26, 2013, the suburb of Damascus where the Syrian regime allegedly used deadly chemical weapons. AP PhotoSyrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the UN mission investigating alleged chemical weapons attacks in Damascus has been delayed until Wednesday after rebels failed to guarantee the experts' safety.
"Today, we were surprised by the fact that they were not able to get there because the rebels did not agree to guarantee the mission's security. So the mission has been delayed until tomorrow," Muallem told a televised news conference.
The delay was confirmed by UN spokesman Farhan Haq, referring to a safety concerns after a sniper attack on the inspector's convoy on Monday.
"Following yesterday's attack on the UN convoy, a comprehensive assessment determined that the visit should be postponed by one day in order to improve preparedness and safety for the team," said Haq.
The UN team has still not obtained "confirmation of access" for a new visit but Haq said this was expected later Tuesday.
He gave no other details of what was holding up the confirmation.
Syria to 'defend itself' in case of military strikes
Syria vowed Tuesday to defend itself as the US defence chief said his country's forces are "ready" to launch attacks against the Syrian regime, accused of deadly chemical weapons attacks.
Asian, Gulf and European stock markets nosedived and world oil prices hit a six-month high over fears of possible military intervention, as the drumbeat of war appeared to grow louder in Western capitals.
Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most powerful ally, warned any use of force would have "catastrophic consequences".
During a defiant news conference, Syria Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Damascus would defend itself against any strikes.
"We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal," he said.
"The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves." Muallem said Syria had capabilities that would "surprise" the world, and warned that any military action against it would serve the interests of Israel and Al-Qaeda.
He was speaking as the United States and its allies moved closer to acting, with the Washington Post reporting that President Barack Obama was weighing limited military strikes on targets in Syria.
Such action would probably last no more than two days and involve missiles or long-range bombers, striking military targets not directly related to Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, the newspaper cited senior administration officials as saying.