U.S. Seeks UN Action Amid Syrian Chemical Weapons Claims

Western nations align to demand emergency meetings to discuss claims regarding Syrian civil war.
16:28 | 08/21/13

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Transcript for U.S. Seeks UN Action Amid Syrian Chemical Weapons Claims
This is a special report from ABC news. Hello everyone I'm tired and is in New York with his ABC news digital special report. Accusations of chemical warfare in Syria rebel forces there are accusing you -- regime and using -- -- gas near Damascus. The United States and the UN are now to look into that claim the White House saying that President Obama is looking at Syria very closely. Let's bring in ABC's Jeffrey Hoffman in London out of radius of to speed on what we -- -- can you recap for us. What exactly the rebels are saying and what is the aside regime doing other than denying this out right. But let's be clear it's -- it's impossible for any of us to confirm any of this. Independently where we're very much at the mercy of what is coming out of Syria there is a lot of very disturbing video on the Internet. That does not appear to be fake it appears to be fresh and we're not -- -- showed you now because it is extremely. Upsetting. Showing. Children and not to have men and women. And civilians were not talking the rebel soldiers -- large large number of them. They have no bodily wounds to them they I do not -- be bleeding but they appear to be suffocating many are already dead. The rebels and the Syrian opposition claimed this was a poisonous gas attack as you pointed out. And this was done by the Syrian army. This early this morning. In the outskirts of Damascus. That -- just underscore as you said none of this -- confirmed but what from what we've heard these people were simply in their homes at the time when. Rockets launched in and they believe that perhaps the chemical weapons. Were allegedly put put into those rockets. That that is the claim and that's what the footage appears to show. Again these are civilians these are not rebel soldiers now the Syrian government says this is nonsense that there's there's -- -- -- They have not used poisonous gas that they have not use chemical weapons. -- some independent human rights groups. In Syria are saying that there does appear to be. Some validity to these claims that chemical weapons were used on a fairly large scale. Earlier today. -- -- -- there have been claims before by the rebels that chemical weapons had been used in chemical warfare. Was a reality is this claim any different is this video. Perhaps when and if it is corroborated going to be much stronger evidence. Well this is what's interesting -- As we speak a group of 28 United Nations inspectors are in Syria it. It's to get them. They are there to investigate three previous claims of chemical weapons use in the northern part of Syria near the city of a lap -- The fact. That this would happen if it did in fact happen what Ali UN inspection team is in Syria makes it really difficult to understand. The logic and and did just what was a Syrian government under a -- in the Syrian army thinking. If in fact they did this is led of course to claims to demands by the US by Britain and others. That these inspectors be allowed to divert and go to this Damascus suburb and see for themselves what's happened so that they can verify. And has this in fact been a chemical weapon attack. From what I understand they -- to just go to very specific sites correct they're going to need to obtain permission to expand the scope of their search. That's right all of us who worked in countries like Syria know that you don't just simply -- car around and go where you wanna go that they will be. Have heavy government reminders they they have a specific a Jen today and it will not be easy for them given the difficulty they had to be getting access to these three sites. From alleged attacks months ago it's not going to be easy but there isn't mounting pressure the the UN Security -- to hold an emergency meeting. They the world seems to be -- is sitting up and taking notice this is a very very serious claim and and the scale of it whether it's 600 as some say are thirteen hundred as others say or a few hundred the scale of -- still very disturbing and and and again -- -- these images of young children. Struggling to breathe foaming at the mouth many of them already dead -- it's impossible not to be moved -- and disturbed by what we're seeing. What would the repercussions be if in fact is determined that this was these chemical weapons. Well of course you'll remember the President Obama has said the use of chemical weapons would would cross a red line would represent -- red line for Syria. That the statement was made months and months ago. -- if in fact this is proven to be a chemical weapons attack it puts Obama and and all the western leaders and a very difficult position. This Syrian civil war is very much. At a at stalemate in fact if anything the government has the upper hand these days the rebels. Are not doing well. And it's going to be very difficult for the west to to do anything about it there's no appetite whatsoever for so called boots on the ground in -- that's simply not realistic it's not going to happen you also have to contend with Russia. Syria's biggest ally the Russians are saying. That that they too would be disturbed -- -- chemical weapons but they believe. The Russian foreign minister minister said this afternoon they believe this is simply a diversionary tactic and admit that they wanna see you real proof that they're skeptical. But for the west this this -- represents an extremely difficult situation to navigate politically. All the rhetoric is easy but but action is much more difficult. OK so at this point we're standing by waiting for commentary from the US government meanwhile at the United Nations you mention. Several countries are urging for an immediate. Meeting to discuss the reports to discuss what's going on is that right. That's right and we in fact had a statement from the foreign secretary here in London William Hague saying just an hour or two ago. Fact that. Is corroborated in an everyone's coaching -- -- understand that the difficulty. Of these -- -- verifying these kind of claims and and mr. Hague also cut to but he said if this really is a chemical weapons attack and then this really -- -- the severity of that the civil war in Syria and and and that is something that the world simply can't sit back and and let -- It's what about Russia's potential intervention of the Security Council do you think that they will try to make influence there. Oh for sure for sure -- Britain Russia has a diminishing empire as we know Syria is one of its few outposts and and -- and Russia has been. Real obstacle to negotiating. -- some sort of settlement in that region because is that they want to keep that their fingers in in the in in Syria. And as I've already indicated the Russian foreign minister has said -- -- chemical weapons would be bad but he's skeptical he thinks this is just a diversionary tactic to 22. Put the this is Syrian government on the defensive end he thinks is this just a lot of rhetoric from the opposition forces. Right ABC's Jeffrey Hoffman -- London thank you so much for joining us. And right now let's bring in ABC's dean -- -- -- at the State Department Dana the US already concluded in June that Syria has probably used chemical weapons. In the past that led to -- decision to approve sending weapons to the rebels for the first time so. If they find this newest claim is true what could be reaction. We'll tie that is the question that everyone's really asking end. As you pointed out -- and June -- president Obama's said that they did find. That Syria had used chemical weapons. That they were going to begin sending. -- light weaponry to the rebels now whether that those weapons have actually been delivered or not. Is still up in the air many people say that it's still they're still in the pipeline and even so the Syrian rebels say. This is not going to be -- -- today Burt. Today -- and stop. Aside and stop aside and his. Attacks on this Syrian people. -- in -- you know there's been a lot of criticism of the Obama administration that. Bill Obama said that this was a red -- no action has actually been taken and you saw today that. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at general Dempsey sent a letter to the ranking member of the house foreign affairs committee Eliot -- Laying out the military options and what did she said was that. He didn't see any way that the United States could be militarily involved with the Syrian rebels because it's not clear who we would be back. And of course is now perhaps emboldened the Syrian government if in fact this is. True that they launched a chemical weapons attack on civilians. Where does that leave the US I mean there aren't. If were pretty frank about our military options being very limited. The president goes back and and and tries to redraw the Red Line or expand diplomacy -- we do. Well you see already that we're trying to expand diplomacy. The United Nations led by the United States and United Kingdom. It's calling for an emergency meeting in consultations. With the Security Council today on these reports. Now the problem with that -- Jeffrey pointed out is that on the Security Council since Russian. And Russians been. Very very clear that they are against specific sanctions. And punishment without any kind of concrete evidence that the Syrian regime is using these chemical weapons. And of course the regime has said already that this isn't true so what you're seeing from the United States already with the statement that the White House put out. Is that's they're calling for advanced diplomacy. They're calling for the UN inspectors that are already in the country to have full unfettered access to these sites and aside from that. Everyone is waiting to see exactly what the Obama administration will do next. -- speaking of the concrete evidence that defenders of the Syrian governments say they would want before any action. What about that team on the ground there certainly hamstrung by the Syrian government itself they're limited. As to where they can go -- -- any. Real hope that they will get to this site and may be able to make -- conclusion. I think everyone hopes that they'll be able to make its incited and make a conclusion but all evidence that's -- his band that. They will have very very limited access -- a look at how long it's taken for them to even get access. Into the country. And now with these additional allegations. The Syrian regime is going to be very strict about what kind of access that the that these inspectors get that's far I don't think anyone would say that. President aside his -- Forthcoming and extremely -- parents in what's happening in the country and I'm not sure than anyone expects that this case will be any different. And of course Jeffrey also saying just before you that it does appear -- sought regime at this point in time does have the upper hand in terms of this conflict. To begin with and adding to -- this -- with seemingly unprovoked by anyone recent incidents. Well if this attack is confirmed in an as Jeffrey out -- pointed out. The United States and United Nations are scrambling to see if they can get as many facts as possible. This situation is fluid and at the moment yes it does seem like the aside regime has the upper hand. But you know only a few months ago it looked as if the rebels were taking a force in and taking control of very strategic areas know what the opposition is saying is that this is exactly why they need more concrete support. In terms of weaponry in terms of the no fly zone. From the United States because without it they don't see how they will be able to defeat aside. But again. You -- you heard -- general Dempsey today or in the letter that he put out he said. You know right now in Syria it's not about choosing -- side there are many sides and their real concerns within the administration that. The -- that the rebels are showing may or may not end that being in the long term best interests of the United States. This has be seen time and time again this can get quite complicated. And as you mentioned earlier there's. No real proof for real update at this point as to whether the initial promise of weapons to the rebels after the first alleged chemical attack -- even happened. Underscoring the reluctance of the US -- to -- or weapon. That's right and even the weapons that they were approved to ship. -- are considered sort of small weaponry ammunition. Not be. Not the -- -- taint. Weapons or they have and what the heavy weaponry that the rebels have been requesting. And specifically we -- at the rebels say they don't get that -- would really -- the United States to try to impose some type of no fly zone. Not something that the administration has been. Very very resistant to do and you know -- -- this conflict drags on. There's very clear evidence that. There are some extremists and al-Qaeda elements taking force with in the opposition within the military opposition in particular. You have seen. There's a bounty on the head of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq who is well known to now have been in Syria and helping to lead some. What what the United States is you've been classified as terrorist operations. With in Syria that are targeting civilians. On the other side supporters -- -- -- and so. The conflict continues to get more and more complicated. And of course the administration -- -- says that the longer that it drags on. The more civilian deaths you're seeing the more complicated it becomes the question is and the problem is what's the answer to that. All right and speaking of which you were waiting momentarily to get word from the administration from the White House. What we expect then to say at this point. I think you're -- hear the White House reiterate what was put out in the statement which is that. For right now they can't confirm these awful reports. That -- -- looking urgently into what's happening but in the mean time. They're calling for the Syrian regime to give the UN inspectors. Access to the sites until allowed into. Investigate without any kind of interference. By your obstacle -- -- you're actually -- hearing him say. That. The United States continues to take the stay and that the best solution is a political solution. And that. This wouldn't be happening. Civilians would still be alive. It's a side wasn't. Wreaking basically horror find his. People. Danny Hughes I want to thank you so much for joining us and helping us. Put all of this into perspective David Hughes at the State Department and we are standing by both at the State Department and the White House suffer upcoming. Statements and sad news conference is very conceded podiums with the reporters. Waiting for word and you can follow. The latest on Syria right here -- abcnews.com you'll be able to watch those news conferences live as well. This has been a special report from ABC news digital on time Hernandez in New York thank you for watching. This has been a special group. Report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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