Britain to release intelligence on Syrian chemical weapon attack

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By Frederik Pleitgen and Holly Yan, CNN

The British government will publish some of its intelligence related to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, as some members of Parliament put the brakes on taking any military action against the Syrian regime anytime soon.

“It certainly seemed 48 hours ago that there was an all-party consensus that parliament today would be endorsing the bombing of Syria this weekend, and I think people have pulled back from that,” Parliamentarian Diane Abbott of the Labour Party said.

“It’s not clear (whether) a bombing mission like that would be legal … and it’s not clear that it would make things better.”

Other Western countries are also mulling possible military action against Syrian forces after the alleged chemical assault near Damascus on August 21. Death toll estimates from that day range from several hundred to 1,300.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said there’s no doubt that Syria launched chemical weapons attacks against its own people.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has blamed rebels for the attack, a claim that Obama said was impossible.

“We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed … chemical weapons of that sort,” he told “PBS NewsHour” Wednesday.

“We do not believe that, given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out. And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences.”

Obama said that he has not made a decision about whether to conduct a military strike in Syria.

But Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, said rebels are to blame. He accused opposition fighters of getting materials to produce chemical weapons “from outside powers — mainly speaking, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”

A team of U.N. weapons inspectors is in Syria trying to determine whether chemical weapons were used — but will not assign blame. The inspectors are expected to leave Syria by Saturday morning, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday, according to his spokesman.

Britain’s Parliament will vote on a motion Thursday that would rule out the idea of possible military action until the U.N. inspectors reveal their findings to the U.N. Security Council.

After the inspectors have made their findings, members of Parliament would be required to take another vote, according to the motion being put forward.

But Syria tried to proactively thwart any British strikes.

On Thursday, members of parliament received an open letter from the Syrian government urging them not to take any military action against Syria, the press office for House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said.

Rows of corpses

Last week wasn’t the first time reports surfaced of a chemical weapons attack. But it was by far the worst.

“Syria is now undoubtedly the most serious crisis facing the international community,” Lakhdar Brahimi, U.N. and Arab League special envoy to Syria, said Wednesday in Geneva.

“It does seem that some kind of substance was used that killed a lot of people,” Brahimi said.

The death toll could be in the hundreds, or possibly more than a thousand, he explained. Opposition activists say 1,300 people were killed.

Images show rows of corpses — including those of children — lined up in a room. The bodies had no outward signs of trauma.

Those who said they survived the alleged chemical attack described a horrific scene in the town of Zamalka.

“After the chemicals, they woke us up and told us to put masks on,” a 6-year-old boy said.

“I told my dad I can’t breathe. My father then fainted and I fainted right after that, but we were found and taken to the emergency room.”

CNN obtained video of the boy and others who made the claims to a journalist in the area.

No matter what U.N. investigators say really happened in Zamalka, it’s only one scene in the civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people since 2011. Many of those killed were civilians.

CNN’s Max Foster and Bharati Naik contributed to this report.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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