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EU urges 'clear and strong response' to Syria attack, hedges on military action

European Union foreign ministers said Saturday there appears to be "clear evidence" of a chemical attack in Syria, but urged the US to wait on military action until UN inspectors issue their report.

Syria eu kerry 2013 09 07Enlarge
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) speaks with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton on Sept. 7, 2013, before the Meeting of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Latvia. Kerry sought to muster European Union support for military strikes against Syria, after a G20 summit failed to resolve bitter international divisions on the issue. (SUSAN WALSH/AFP/Getty Images)

European Union foreign ministers urged a "clear and strong response" to Syria's alleged chemical attack, but advised the US to wait until UN inspectors issue their findings before striking the Assad regime.

The announcement comes after meetings with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is trying to drum up international support for military action in the war-torn nation.

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But while EU ministers agreed there is "strong evidence" that a large-scale chemical weapons attack occurred on Aug. 21 near Damascus, they endorsed France's decision to wait until the UN issues its report on the alleged attack, even though results may be "preliminary."

That report may be coming as early as the end of next week, German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported Saturday.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said evidence does "seem to indicate" that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged attack, because it is the only side in the civil war with chemical weapons and the means of delivering them in a substantive quantity.

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She called the use of chemical weapons a "blatant violation of international law, a war crime and a crime against humanity."

The EU ministers did not endorse military action, but Kerry said he still welcomed the "strong statement" from the 28 countries backing all of "the efforts to hold the Assad regime accountable for what it has done."

Until Saturday, the EU had struggled for a common stance on Syria.

The Obama administration has said military action is justified in response to the hemical weapons attack it says killed more than 1,400 people. The administration has asked Congress to approve a bill authorizing military force.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/130907/eu-urges-clear-and-strong-response-syria-attack