UN’s investigative team leaves Syria, indicating American-French attack may be imminent.
Poll shows most French against strike on Syria.
Several nations advise their citizens against traveling to Lebanon.
The UN experts investigating last week’s alleged chemical weapons strike outside Damascus left Syria early Saturday and crossed into neighboring Lebanon, departing hours after President Barack Obama said he is weighing “limited and narrow” action against a Syrian regime that the administration has bluntly accused of launching the deadly attack.
The inspectors’ departure brings the looming confrontation between the U.S. and President Bashar Assad‘s regime one step closer to coming to a head.
Obama has said that if he opts for a military strike, any operation would be limited in scope and only aimed at punishing Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons.
4:56 P.M. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and other senior U.S. national security officials will hold conference calls on Saturday afternoon to discuss chemical weapons use in Syria with the Senate Democratic Caucus as well as the Senate Republican Conference, a White House official says.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice as well as Admiral James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will also participate, the official said. (Reuters)
1:51 P.M. Opposition fighters across Syria are preparing to launch attacks that exploit anticipated U.S.-led military strikes, but there are no plans to coordinate with Western forces, a Syrian rebel commander Qassim Saadeddine, a former Syrian army colonel and spokesman for the rebels’ Supreme Military Council. He said the council had sent a selection of rebel groups a military plan of action to use if strikes took place. “The hope is to take advantage when some areas are weakened by any strikes. We ordered some groups to prepare in each province, to ready their fighters for when the strike happens,” he told Reuters, speaking by Skype. “They were sent a military plan that includes preparations to attack some of the targets we expect to be hit in foreign strikes, and some others that we hope to attack at the same time.” (Reuters)
1:12 P.M. Russian President Putin says next week’s G20 summit in St. Petersburg could be a platform to discuss Syria crisis. (Reuters)
1:10 P.M. Putin: If the United States begins unilateral military operations against Syria it will be “extremely sad,” adds that Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, should consider potential victims of Military attack against Syria. (Reuters)
1:00 P.M. Putin says that if American accusations that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons this would be “utter nonsense” on its part, adds the U.S. should present evidence at United Nations Security Council. (Reuters)
12:59 P.M. Russia says U.S. threats to use military force against Syria were unacceptable and that Washington would be violating international law if it acted without the approval of the UN Security Council. “Washington statements with threats to use force against Syria are unacceptable,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich says in a statement released late Friday.
“Any unilateral use of force without the authorization of the UN Security Council, no matter how ‘limited’ it is, will be a clear violation of international law, will undermine prospects for a political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict in Syria and will lead to a new round of confrontation and new casualties.” Lukashevich also says that Washington’s threats were made “in the absence of any proof” of the Syrian government using chemical weapons. (Reuters)
12:52 P.M. A senior delegation of the Iranian parliament goes to Damascus on Saturday for a five-day visit, the news agency ISNA reports, as a sign of solidarity with the Syrian government. The delegation of three members, led by foreign policy commission chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi, will meet Syrian President Bashar Assad, the report adds. (DPA)
12:40 P.M. Most French people do not want France to take part in military action on Syria and most do not trust French President Francois Hollande to do so, a poll shows. The BVA poll, released Saturday by Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui en France, showed 64 percent of respondents opposed military action, 58 percent did not trust Hollande to conduct it, and 35 percent feared it could “set the entire region (Middle East) ablaze.” (Reuters)
12:34 P.M. Several countries have advised their citizens against travelling to Lebanon as regional tensions grow over a possible U.S. military strike on Syria. Those issuing the advice include Bahrain, Kuwait, Britain and France, while Austria told its citizens to contact its embassy in Lebanon before travelling there. Bahrain and Kuwait also urged its nationals in the country to leave immediately, their state news agencies reported. (Reuters)
12:30 P.M. A senior security source in Lebanon said 14,000 people had left the country on Thursday alone, mostly Europeans.