Germany would back 'consequences' over Syria chemical attack

Germany on Monday said it would support "consequences" against the Syrian regime if its suspected deadly use of chemical weapons is confirmed.

"The use of chemical weapons of mass destruction would be a crime against civilisation," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told a Berlin conference of German ambassadors.

"If their use is confirmed, the world community would have to act. Then Germany would be among those who would support consequences.

He did not specify what the consequences would be and said Berlin was in close communication with the UN and allies.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said there was "a very high probability" the regime had employed chemical weapons, which he said would constitute "a terrible crime against men, women and children".

A chemical weapons attack would breach a "taboo", violate the international treaty banning their use, and require "a very clear international response", said the spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

He said he would "not speculate" on whether Germany would potentially join or support any military action.

The German comments came as UN experts headed to the site of the suspected attack on Monday.

The German foreign minister said the admission of UN inspectors to the area was overdue.

Westerwelle also urged "level-headedness" to avoid an escalation in the Middle East and said the goal remained a "a political approach to end the violence".

"Both are necessary: determination and prudence," he said.

The United States, Britain and France have signalled a growing willingness to strike the regime militarily if the use of chemical weapons is confirmed.

Germany has so far opposed any military action against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has fought a bloody campaign against rebels for over two years.

Memories of Germany's World War II aggression have made it reluctant to take part in military action abroad, although it has sent troops to Afghanistan and joined a series of peacekeeping missions.

Berlin earned diplomatic criticism for failing to take part in the 2011 NATO action to oust Libya's dictator Moamer Kadhafi.