UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations secretary-gen­­eral on Friday warned against a “full-blown milit­ary escalation” in Syria, as France and the United Sta­tes said an alleged chemical attack must not go unanswered.

Experts from the Organisation for the Prohi­bition of Chemical Weapons are on their way to Syria to probe the alleged chlorine strike on the then rebel-held suburb of Douma, which took place nearly a week ago.

But, with the British government now estimating that the death toll from the attack has risen to 75, US President Donald Trump and other western leaders are contemplating punitive military action.

This would increase the risk of a clash with the Russian forces in Syria to defend Assad, and UN chief Antonio Guterres warned the Security Council to be­­ware a “full-blown military escalation.” But France’s UN ambassador Francois Dela­t­tre said that in choosing once again to use banned chemical weapons against civilians, Assad’s regime had “reached a point of no-return.”

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2018