Syrian opposition says peace talks off the table after Damascus attack
ISTANBUL - Reuters
A U.N. team, that is scheduled to investigate an alleged chemical attack that killed hundreds last week in a Damascus suburb, leaves their hotel in a convoy, in Damascus, Syria, Monday, Aug. 26, 2013. AP PhotoAn international peace conference on Syria, planned to be held in Geneva, is off the table for now following an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus, a senior member of Syria's opposition coalition said Aug.26.
Members of the Syrian National Coalition met representatives of the "Friends of Syria", a group of Western and Arab nations opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, in Istanbul on Monday in a meeting originally meant to discuss plans for the conference.
"It (the meeting) was for Geneva but we refused to speak about Geneva after what's happened ... We must punish this dictator, Bashar the Chemist we call him, and then we can discuss Geneva," coalition Secretary General Badr Jamous told Reuters after the meeting.
Syria's opposition accused government forces of gassing hundreds of people by firing rockets that released deadly fumes over rebel-held Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21, killing men, women and children as they slept.
Syria opposition accuses regime of firing on UN team
Syria's opposition also accused pro-regime forces of opening fire at UN weapons inspectors Aug.26 on their way to a suspected chemical weapons site outside Damascus in a bid to hinder their investigation.
"The National Coalition of the Syrian opposition and the Free Syrian Army firmly condemn the action of the Assad regime militias at the entrance to Moadamiyet al-Sham... by opening fire on a car transporting the UN team," the political opposition and armed rebels said in a statement.
The opposition charged that militias working for President Bashar al-Assad's government were seeking to "intimidate and prevent them (UN teams) from unearthing the truth." A UN spokesman earlier said unidentified snipers targeted the experts, but gave no details on where the attack happened.
The Syrian authorities claimed it was the rebels who fired at the UN team as they neared the site of the August 21 alleged chemical attack southwest of Damascus.
"Members of the United Nations team... came under fire from armed terrorist groups as they entered the Moadamiyet al-Sham area" southwest of Damascus, state television reported, quoting a Syrian official.