"The minister stressed that the official statements made in the past few days by Washington about the readiness of the US armed forces to intervene in the Syrian conflict are regarded in Moscow with deep concern. One gets the impression that certain circles, including those that are increasingly active in their calls for a military intervention in circumvention of the United Nations, are frankly trying to wipe out the Russian-American joint efforts of the past few months to convene an international conference on the peaceful settlement of the crisis," the ministry statement says.
Russia has urged all "sponsors" of the Syrian opposition to press all opposition groups to agree to start talks with the President Bashar al-Assad's government.
"All sponsors of the opposition who have any influence on it should press all opponents of Bashar Assad to agree to negotiations, whereas statements with threats of force against the Syrian regime are sending a directly opposite signal to the opposition, and our American and European partners should realize what catastrophic consequences such a policy would have for the region, for the Arab world and for the entire Islamic world," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement on Sunday.
Moscow criticizes Western insistence on prompt reaction to alleged chemical arms attacks in Syria
Russia on Sunday welcomed Damascus' offer to permit UN inspectors to probe alleged chemical weapons use and warned the West that an Iraq scenario in Syria would be a "tragic mistake", saying that any unilateral military action in Syria would undermine efforts for peace and have a "devastating impact" on the security situation in the Middle East.
Russia has urged action to get all Syria opposition groups to agree to talks and said threats of force against Assad counterproductive.
"We once again decisively urge (the United States) not to repeat the mistakes of the past and not to allow actions that go against international law. Any unilateral military action bypassing the United Nations will ... lead to further escalation (in Syria) and will affect the already explosive situation in the Middle East in the most devastating way," the ministry said.
Moscow has urged Western leaders to avoid attempts to force biased conclusions on UN inspectors who will look for evidence of reported chemical weapon attacks in Syria on August 21.
"We again resolutely urge all those who are trying to force conclusions on the UN experts and who say that armed action against Syria is possible to show common sense and avoid tragic mistakes," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement the text of which is posted on the ministry's website, www.mid.ru.
"Policies on various crises must be based on international law and authentic facts instead of attempts to match surmises and inventions with unilateral geopolitical projects," he said. On Sunday the Syrian government agreed to allow UN inspectors to come to Syria and check the allegations of attacks. "This has been the result of our intensive work with Damascus," Lukashevich said.
"We are satisfied with the constructive attitude of the Syrian leadership to organizing effective interaction with the UN mission. In our view, it opens up opportunities for careful, unbiased and objective investigations into all the circumstances of what happened in the Damascus suburb, something that we have persistently been calling for," he said.
"It is important that the armed opposition that controls some areas of the eastern part of Ghouta [the suburb where the alleged attacks took place] should provide security guarantees for the expert mission and should not dare resort to the provocative use of weapons against them as was the case with a UN observer mission last summer. We appeal to everyone who has any influence on Syria's illegal armed groups to put pressure on them for this purpose," the spokesman said.
UN chief Ban Ki Moon said on Monday there was no time to waste as UN experts prepared to investigate a suspected Syrian chemical attack, with Washington suggesting the probe was already too late.
"Every hour counts. We cannot afford any more delays," Mr Ban told reporters in Seoul, hours before a UN team was due to inspect the site of last week's alleged chemical attack near Damascus.
The Syrian authorities green-lighted the inspection on Sunday, but US officials said it was too little, too late, arguing that persistent shelling of the site in recent days had "corrupted" the site.
"The world is watching Syria," the secretary general said, stressing once again that the UN experts must be allowed to conduct a "full, thorough and unimpeded" investigation.
UN says experts to visit Syria poison gas site from Monday
UN chemical weapons experts will visit the site of an alleged poison gas attack in Syria to conduct investigations beginning on Monday, the United Nations said.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "has instructed the mission ... currently in Damascus, to focus its attention on ascertaining the facts of the 21 August incident as its highest priority," the UN said in a statement.
"The mission is preparing to conduct on-site fact-finding activities, starting tomorrow, Monday, 26 August."
The UN announcement came shortly after Damascus gave the green light for the inspectors to carry out the probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons near the Syrian capital on Wednesday.
Ban "notes the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic affirmed that it will provide the necessary cooperation, including the observance of the cessation of hostilities at the locations related to the incident," the UN statement said.
"The Secretary-General would like to reiterate that all relevant parties equally share the responsibility of cooperating in urgently generating a safe environment for the mission to do its job efficiently and providing all necessary information."
The UN team arrived in Damascus last week to begin the hard-won mission, which UN officials originally said would last two weeks and cover three sites.
The United States now has little doubt the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians last week, and President Barack Obama is studying how to respond, a senior official in the US administration said on Sunday.
"Based on the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, witness accounts, and other facts gathered by open sources, the US intelligence community, and international partners, there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident," the official said.
"We are continuing to assess the facts so the president can make an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons," the official added.
Damascus on Sunday gave the green light for United Nations inspectors to carry out an immediate probe into allegations of chemical weapons use near the capital last week, Syria's foreign ministry said.
"An agreement was concluded today (Sunday) in Damascus between the Syrian government and the United Nations during the visit of the UN high representative for disarmament, Angela Kane, to allow the UN team lead by professor Aake Sellstroem to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Damascus province," a ministry statement said.
The agreement "is effective immediately," it added.
The United Nations and the Syrian government "are to agree on the date and time of the team's visit to the sites on which there has been an agreement," the ministry said.
It said the deal was struck in a meeting between Kane, whose organisation has had a 20-member team of inspectors on the ground in Syria since August 18, and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.
"Syria is ready to cooperate with the inspection team to prove that the allegations by terrorist groups (rebels) of the use of chemical weapons by Syrian troops in the Eastern Ghouta region are lies," Muallem was quoted as telling Kane.
Opposition leaders said Friday that UN inspectors would have "unfettered" access to areas under rebel control such as Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus to investigate the use of chemical weapons.
Doctors Without Borders has said 355 people died last week of "neurotoxic" symptoms, after chemical attack on east and southwest of Damascus last Wednesday causing more than 1,300 deaths.
The regime has denied the charges and in turn accused the rebels of using chemical arms.The UN team arrived in the Syrian capital last week to begin a hard-won mission which UN officials originally said would last two weeks and cover three sites.
The head of the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front has pledged to target communities from Syria's Alawite faith, followed by President Bashar al-Assad, with rockets in revenge for an alleged chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus, according to an audio recording seen on Sunday.
For every chemical rocket that had fallen on our people in Damascus, one of their villages will, by the will of God, pay for it," Abu Mohammad al-Golani said in the recording posted on YouTube.
"On top of that we will prepare a thousand rockets that will be fired on their towns in revenge for the Damascus Ghouta massacre."
A US strike on Syria will have serious implications for the entire Middle East as there will be retaliation, al-Jazeera quoted Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi as saying.
"They [the United States] will not be able to use the anti-terror struggle as cover. Carrying out an attack on Syria is not like going out for a stroll. There will be a retaliatory strike. As a result, the entire Middle East will be a ball of fire,” al-Zoubi said.
He repeated that "Syrian troops did not use chemical weapons” and that the government would fully cooperate with UN inspectors.
The minister confirmed that a cache containing lots of plastic containers with chemicals produced in Saudi Arabia had been found in a suburb of Damascus.
The Pentagon prepares its military options for Syria should President Barack Obama choose to exercise any of them, U.S Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday.
"President Obama has asked the Defense Department to prepare options for all contingencies. We have done that and we are prepared to exercise whatever option; if he decides to employ one of those options," Hagel told reporters during a trip to Malaysia.
Materials implicating the forces of Syrian president Bashar Assad in chemical weapons use near Damascus were prepared prior to the alleged incident on August 21, the Russian foreign ministry said.
Moscow continues to monitor closely the event surrounding the"alleged” chemical attack near Damascus, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, said in a statement.
"We’re getting more new evidence that this criminal act was of a provocative nature,” he stressed. "In particular, there are reports circulating on the Internet, in particular that the materials of the incident and accusations against government troops had been posted for several hours before the so-called attack. Thus, it was a pre-planned action.”
The Damascus chemical attack accusations indicate the launch of "another anti-Syrian propaganda wave” and, in this context, the calls on the UN Security Council to immediately use force in Syria "heard from some EU capitals” are "unacceptable”, Lukashevich said.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Assad’s government has demonstrated a "constructive approach” to the chemical weapons issue by allowing UN experts into the country.
But it’s alarming that the "same signals” aren’t coming from the Syrian opposition, which so far hasn’t displayed willingness to ensure the safety and efficient operations of UN investigators on the territory it controls, he said.
"This directly impedes the objective investigation of allegations of possible cases of chemical weapons use in Syria, which is called for by a number of countries and which the Russian side supports,” Lukashevich noted.
The Russian foreign ministry "strongly appeals to those who should put pressure on the opposition, making it take the necessary steps in order to ensure the full realization of the objectives of the international expert mission,” the spokesman said.
The reports of a chemical weapons use in the suburbs of the Ghouta region on the outskirts Damascus appeared in the pro-opposition media on Wednesday, August 21, coinciding with the arrival of the UN investigators to the Syrian capital.
The Islamist rebels claimed that over a 1,000 people, including many children, were killed in the attack, with the government saying that the accusations were fabricated in order to cover up the opposition’s battle losses and undermine the work of the UN mission.