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UN envoy to Syria says chemical 'substance' used

Evidence suggests that some kind of chemical "substance" was used in Syria that may have killed more than 1,000 people, but any military strike in response must first gain U.N. Security Council approval, the U.N.'s special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said Wednesday.

Brahimi spoke to reporters in Geneva as a U.N. inspection team was investigating the alleged poison gas attack near Damascus on Aug. 21 and momentum built for Western military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in the civil war that he called the most serious crisis facing the international community.

"With what has happened on the 21st of August last week, it does seem that some kind of substance was used that killed a lot of people: hundreds, definitely more than a hundred, some people say 300, some people say 600, maybe 1,000, maybe more than 1,000 people," Brahimi said.

"This was of course unacceptable. This is outrageous. This confirms how dangerous the situation in Syria is and how important for the Syrians and the international community to really develop the political will to address this issue seriously, and look for a solution for it," he said.

Brahimi did not elaborate on whether he based his information on the work of the U.N. team or other sources such as Western intelligence, including what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called "undeniable" evidence of a large-scale chemical attack likely launched by Assad's regime.

Brahimi also said that any U.S.-led military action must first gain approval from the 15-nation Security Council, whose five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — each have veto power.

"International law says that any military action must be taken after" Security Council approval, he said. But, he added, President Barack Obama's administration is "not known to be trigger-happy."

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