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August 29, 2013

Fears of Western strike on Syria spread in Mideast


While Israeli officials believe the chances of a Syrian strike remain slim, there are concerns that Damascus may respond to any U.S.-led military action by attacking the Jewish state, a close American ally.

On Wednesday, the U.N. inspectors visited the eastern Damascus suburbs of Mleeha and Zamalka, activists said. Amateur video showed a convoy of five cars with U.N. markings, followed by armed rebels in pickups.

The video showed the inspectors visiting a clinic and interviewing a man through a translator. Two inspectors were present as a nurse drew blood from a man on an examination table. One of the experts was heard in the video saying he and his team have collected blood, urine and hair samples.

The videos appeared consistent with other reporting by The Associated Press, including Skype interviews with anti-regime activists.

One activist said the team took hair and skin samples of five suspected victims in Zamalka during a 90-minute visit. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of regime reprisals.

At the U.N., the five permanent members of the Security Council failed to reach an agreement on a British-proposed resolution that would authorize the use of military force against Syria.

The draft resolution — were it to be put to a vote — would almost certainly be vetoed by Syria ally Russia as well as China, which have blocked past attempts to sanction the Assad regime. The document was being sent back to governments for consultations, according to a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private and he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

A French diplomatic official acknowledged that the British resolution has virtually no chance of passing, but is being introduced to show that all diplomatic steps were being exhausted. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to disclose details of the deliberations.

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