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Chemical weapon death toll at 1,429.

Byline: SAM LISTER

THERE is "compelling" evidence that Bashar Assad's regime launched a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry said last nightas he put the death toll at more than 1,400.

At least 1,429 people Syrians were killed including 426 children, he told reporters in Washington.

Mr Kerry said the American intelligence community has "high confidence" in its assessments, which is based on thousands of sources.

He added: "We know that after a decade of conflict the American people are tired of war. I am too.

"But fatigue does not absolve us of responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about and history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all understanding of common decency."

He also said the Syrian regime spent days carefully preparing to launch a chemical weapons attack.

Based on intelligence, Mr Kerry said Syrian regime personnel were at the site of the attack for three days beforehand, making preparations.

He said regime elements were told to prepare by putting on gas masks.

The US also knows where the rockets were launched from. Mr Kerry said they came from regime-controlled areas.

He said a senior regime official confirmed that the weapons were used and was afraid it would be discovered.

The US is releasing a public report on intelligence gathered about last week's deadly attack. President Barack Obama is preparing for a possible military strike in response. The US chemical weapons assessment said Assad''''s government used an unidentified nerve agent in the attack. The report cites human and satellite intelligence that it said backs up videos and other evidence.

The report said the "high confidence" assessment is the strongest position that US intelligence agencies can take short of confirmation.

It dismisses the Assad government's contention that rebels were responsible.

The US said additional intelligence remains classified but is being provided to allies and Congress.

Meanwhile, two Government ministers who missed a crunch vote on Syria which led to a shock defeat for David Cameron were reportedly in a soundproof room near the Commons and missed the bell to vote.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening and Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds failed to return to the division lobbies for the second vote on military intervention in Syria last night a vote the Government lost by 13.

The Prime Minister said that he had accepted apologies from the pair, who were among 10 members of the Government's so-called payroll vote who failed to make it to the Commons lobbies.

Asked about their absence, Mr Cameron said: "This was a technical issue. They had made it for the first vote, they were in a room in the House of Commons where they didn't hear the division bell.

"I have accepted their apology." It is understood that Ms Greening and Mr Simmonds were in a room near the Commons chamber, discussing the situation in Rwanda, when the vote was called.

Both MPs voted against the Labour amendment at 10pm.

But after the pair went to a meeting room near the chamber which ministers often use between votes. They apparently did not hear the bell for the second vote.
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:7SYRI
Date:Aug 31, 2013
Words:551
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