Limited US strike on Syria is imminent as UN team leaves

UN experts investigating a poison gas attack in Syria left the country on Saturday, paving the way for the United States to lead military strikes to punish President Bashar al-Assad. US President Barack Obama said the US, that has five cruise-missile equipped destroyers in the region, was planning “limited, narrow” military action to punish Mr Assad for an attack that Washington said killed 1,429 people.
“We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale,” Mr Obama said on Friday after Washington unveiled an intelligence assessment that Syrian government forces were to blame for the attack.
The August 21 attack — the deadliest single incident of the Syrian civil war and the world’s worst use of chemical arms since Iraq’s Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in 1988 — has galvanised a reluctant Washington to use force after two and a half years on the sidelines.
After laying out the case in a televised speech, US secretary of state John Kerry spoke on Friday to the foreign ministers of European and Gulf allies and the head of the Arab League. He and other top US officials were due to hold a classified briefing for Democratic and Republican senators on Saturday, the White House said.
France is also expected to join any US strikes. “The chemical massacre in Damascus cannot and must not go unpunished,” French President Francois Hollande said on Friday.
The team of UN experts drove up to Beirut international airport on Saturday after crossing the land border into Lebanon by road earlier in the day. No Western intervention had been expected as long as they were still on the ground in Syria. They later reached Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

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