UN Security Council to meet on alleged Syria chemical attack

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley answers questions during a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters, April 3, 2017 in New York City. Haley will serve as U.N. Security Council President for the month of April.

UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss a suspected chemical attack in Syria that has left dozens dead, the US ambassador said.

Britain and France called for the urgent meeting following reports of the strike on a rebel-held town in the north-western province of Idlib early Tuesday.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley, who holds the council presidency this month, announced the meeting at 10 am (1400 GMT) Wednesday to discuss the "terrible chemical weapons attack in Syria."

"We are hoping to get as much information on the Syrian attack as we can," she said.

The attack on the town of Khan Sheikhun killed at least 58 civilians and saw dozens suffering respiratory problems and symptoms including vomiting, fainting and foaming at the mouth, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At least 11 children were among the dead, the Observatory said, and an AFP correspondent in Khan Sheikhun saw many attached to respirators as they were treated for breathing problems.

"This is clearly a war crime," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters at UN headquarters.

"I call on the Security Council members who have previously used their vetoes to defend the indefensible to change their course."

Russia and China in February vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Syrians accused of being behind chlorine gas attacks on villages in 2014 and 2015.

Rycroft said he could not confirm reports that deadly sarin gas may have been used in the attack on Khan Sheikhun.

"I've seen the reports about the use of sarin and as far as I know they have not been confirmed," he said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the reports were "extremely alarming and disturbing" and noted that the Commission of Inquiry was looking into the allegations.

"Any use of chemical weapons anywhere constitutes a threat to international peace and security and is a serious violation of international law," he said.