United Nations inspectors are expected to gain access Monday to the site of a major suspected chemical weapons attack in the Syrian capital.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said hours before the team was due to begin its work that the mission's success could deter the future use of chemical weapons in Syria and elsewhere.
"All those in Syria have a stake in finding out the truth," said Mr. Ban. "The whole world should be concerned about any threat or sue of chemical weapons, and that is why the world is watching Syria."
Rebels and activists say the government used chemical weapons in an August 21 attack on the eastern suburb of Ghouta, killing hundreds of civilians. The government denies the allegations, and has accused the rebels of using such weapons.
The United States is criticizing Syria for allowing the inspectors into the site five days after the attack.
A senior State Department official said in a statement late Sunday that Secretary of State John Kerry told Mr. Ban and his counterparts in Britain, France, Russia and Canada that Syria should have stopped shelling the area and given access to inspectors immediately after the attack last week.
Western powers have expressed fears that any delay would enable evidence of a chemical attack to degrade or be removed.
The official said Kerry told the diplomats there is "little doubt" Syrian forces used chemical weapons against civilians, and that President Barack Obama is studying the incident before deciding on a "responsible way forward."
Meanwhile, in response to a British newspaper's report that Britain and the United States are planning to use force in Syria, a White House official said Mr. Obama "has not made a decision to undertake military action."
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that U.S. forces are prepared to take action against Syria, if the president approves.
The office of French President Francois Hollande said he and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed on Sunday to hold talks soon on how to respond to what the French leader called the Syrian government's "intolerable act."
Syria and its allies, including Iran and Russia, have warned against any U.S.-led military strikes.
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