Syrian rebels said government forces killed at least 1,100 people Wednesday in a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, an accusation the army vehemently denied.
The head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Ahmed Jarba, urged the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency meeting and "assume its responsibility in the wake of the crime that (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad perpetrated against humanity with the use of chemical weapons."
He said the team of U.N. inspectors that arrived in Syria three days ago to probe the alleged use of chemical armaments should immediately visit the Eastern Ghouta and other areas near the capital targeted in the attack.
The opposition leader said he had contacted foreign ministers of Arab states and Western countries to facilitate the proposed visit.
The secretary-general of the Arab League, Nabil el-Araby, has already called on international inspectors to travel to Eastern Ghouta.
Jarba said the attack showed the Syrian president was following through on recent threats to use all means possible to eliminate "terrorists."
Authorities on Wednesday launched an operation with the support of aircraft and rocket launchers against rebel strongholds outside Damascus, a Syrian security forces source told Efe without making any mention of chemical armaments.
The Syrian army, for its part, said accusations about the use of chemical weapons outside Damascus were "categorically false" and attributed them to opposition propaganda.
"All the allegations about the use of chemical weapons are merely a desperate attempt to cloak their defeats on the ground and reflect their state of hysteria and failure," the armed forces said in a statement broadcast on state television.
More than 100,000 people have died since Syria's civil war broke out in March 2011, the United Nations said late last month. EFE