United Nations chief says Syria tensions could spark 'full-blown military escalation'

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In his reaction to the missile strikes, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all countries to act consistently with the UN Charter and global law.

Guterres' interview with Al Arabiya came just hours before the United States, Britain and France launched targeted air strikes on Syria after the suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma weeks earlier left 40 people killed.

Sweden on Thursday circulated a draft United Nations resolution on sending a United Nations mission to Syria to rid the country of chemical weapons "once and for all", according to the text obtained by AFP.

"Increasing tensions and the inability to reach a compromise in the establishment of an accountability mechanism threaten to lead to a full-blown military escalation", Guterres told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called by Russian Federation.

Guterres called on all the United Nations members to "unite" to deter further escalation that might aggravate the suffering that the Syrian people have endured during the conflict.

"I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria", his statement said.

"All nations and all people will be harmed if we allow Assad to normalise the use of chemical weapons", Haley said. I will continue to engage with Member States to help achieve this objective.

Last October, the Council failed to renew the mandate of a UN-OPCW body, known as the Joint Inspection Mechanism, which was established three years ago.

Due largely to divisions among its five permanent members China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the USA the Council could not adopt three draft resolutions that would have responded to a suspected chemical weapons attack in the Syrian town of Douma almost a week ago. "Let us not forget that, ultimately, our efforts must be about ending the awful suffering of the Syrian people", he added.

I have also closely followed the events in the Council and I regret that they have not been able to reach an agreement so far, he said in a statement.

Two groups of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will arrive in Syria on Thursday and Friday, Syria's Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.