U.S. briefs China on chemical weapons use evidence in Syria

BEIJING Mon Sep 2, 2013 4:01am EDT

A Free Syrian Army fighter shoots his weapon in the old city of Aleppo, September 1, 2013. REUTERS/Molhem Barakat

A Free Syrian Army fighter shoots his weapon in the old city of Aleppo, September 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Molhem Barakat

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Monday it had been briefed by the United States about evidence on the use of chemical weapons in Syria after U.S. President Barack Obama delayed a military response to last month's chemical weapons attack near Damascus until after a congressional vote.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday tests had shown sarin nerve gas was fired on rebel-held areas in Syria on August 21. The United States says more than 1,400 people, many of them children, were killed in the attack.

"The U.S. side briefed China on what evidence the U.S. had in relation to the use of chemical weapons by the relevant party in Syria as well as the relevant decision by the United States," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, told a daily news briefing.

He did not elaborate on what China thought of the evidence it had been shown.

China has said that no side should rush to pre-judge the results of an investigation by U.N. chemical weapons experts in Syria, who it said should carry out an objective and impartial investigation in consultation with the Syrian government.

Hong repeated that China opposed the use of chemical weapons by any side and that China supported the independent, objective investigation by the U.N. experts.

"China expressed serious concern about preparations by relevant countries for unilateral military action," Hong said.

"Any action by the international community ought to respect the rules of the U.N. Charter and basic norms of international relations and avoid further complicating the Syria issue and avoid further disaster for the Middle East."

Russia and China have both vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

But China has been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change. It has said a transitional government should be formed.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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