UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Nine of the 15 United Nations Security Council members have demanded an urgent meeting Monday after an alleged chemical attack on Syria s rebel-held town of Douma, diplomatic sources said.
France initiated the move, and the request was also signed by Britain, the Ivory Coast, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden and the United States, the sources said.
The meeting is set for 11:30 am (1530 GMT).
Russia, which has denied that Damascus used chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta, has asked for a separate Security Council meeting at 3:00 pm.
Those talks are not focused on Syria but instead on global threats to peace, according to diplomatic sources.
Moscow warned Washington against carrying out a “military intervention on fabricated pretexts” in Syria, saying such a move could have “the most dire consequences.”
Along with Syria s ally Russia, Britain, France and the US are permanent members of the Security Council, as is China.
The other states that signed the request for the Syria meeting are non-permanent members of the body, which has met numerous times over the Syrian war since it began in 2011.
“Unfortunately, chemical weapons use to injure and kill innocent Syrian civilians has become all too common,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement.
“The Security Council has to come together and demand immediate access for first responders, support an independent investigation into what happened and hold accountable those responsible for this atrocious act.”
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France will “do its duty” over the alleged chlorine gas attack against civilians in Eastern Ghouta.
France has repeatedly warned that evidence of further use of chemical weapons in Syria was a “red line” that would prompt French strikes.
“The use of chemical weapons is a war crime,” Le Drian said.
Russian-backed regime forces launched a devastating assault in February to retake Eastern Ghouta, the last major opposition bastion close to Damascus.
Syria s White Helmets, who act as first responders in rebel-held areas of Syria, said an attack took place late Saturday using “poisonous chlorine gas.”
In a joint statement with the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), the White Helmets said more than 500 cases were brought to medical centers “with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent.”
Moscow has given the regime of Syria s President Bashar al-Assad diplomatic cover at the UN.