Iran has warned that a US intervention in Syria would carry “harsh consequences” as Washington says it is ready to take action over an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Pressure mounted on Damascus to allow a UN probe of chemical attacks, with French President Francois Hollande saying evidence indicated the regime in war-ravaged Syria was to blame and Israel demanding action against its neighbour.
The Al-Nusra Front, a fierce Al-Qaida-linked group fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, vowed revenge against villages of the Syrian president’s minority Alawite community.
Doctors Without Borders said 355 people died this week of “neurotoxic” symptoms, after Syria’s opposition claimed regime forces unleashed chemicals east and southwest of Damascus on Wednesday causing more than 1,300 deaths.
If confirmed, it would be the deadliest use of chemical agents since late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gassed Iranian troops and Kurdish rebels in the 1980s.
US President Barack Obama said a year ago that the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces was a “red line” that could trigger Western intervention.
On Sunday a strident warning came from Washington’s foe Iran.
“If the United States crosses this red line, there will be harsh consequences for the White House,” armed forces deputy chief of staff Massoud Jazayeri said.
Pope Francis addressed the alleged gas attacks in his weekly mass in the Vatican, saying he has been disturbed by the ”terrible images”.
Francis told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that Syrian and rebel forces must put down their arms. He renewed his call for dialogue as the US considers a military response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria last week.
Francis cited the intensification of the “war among brothers,” including massacres and “atrocious deeds,” and he urged the international community to “put all its efforts” toward helping Syria find a solution to this ”tragic situation.”
Syria denies it used chemical weapons and has granted UN inspectors who have been on the ground for a week to probe three other suspect sites, access to the sites.