Abe urges Assad to step down following alleged chemical weapons attack

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down amid allegations that his government used chemical weapons against rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, according to a Japanese official.

Abe was quoted by the official as saying in a meeting with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani that he holds Assad's government "responsible for the worsening situation (in Syria) as it resorted to violence and took away the lives of innocent people."

The prime minister's remarks came as Britain, France and the United States appear to be preparing to launch military strikes against Syria following the alleged chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21. The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons.

Abe, who is visiting Qatar, later told a press conference in Doha it is "highly likely" that chemical weapons were used in Syria, and Japan will work closely with the international community to "improve the situation."

"We cannot accept the use of chemical weapons under any circumstances," Abe said.

Abe is on a six-day trip through Thursday that has taken him to Bahrain, Kuwait, Djibouti and Qatar.

==Kyodo