“There is no military solution to this conflict, even if both the government and the opposition, and their supporters, think there can be,” he said. “The military path points directly towards the disintegration of the country.”
The administration said its conclusion, based on analysis of evidence gathered by several countries, led to a decision to begin supplying weapons to the rebels.
Ban said he appreciated the willingness of the United States, Britain, France and other governments to provide evidence to a U.N. team investigating the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. But he cautioned that “any information on the alleged use of chemical weapons cannot be ensured without convincing evidence of the chain of custody.”
The secretary general said collecting the necessary proof would require the Syrian government to permit the U.N. chemical weapons team access to suspected sites inside the country. So far, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has refused the unlimited access sought by the U.N. team.
The Russian response was chillier. Speaking hours after the White House announcement Thursday, President Vladimir Putin said he had doubts that chemical weapons had been used.
On Friday, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, continued the theme. “The contacts we have with American experts did not convince our experts that, in fact, the information which was presented was convincing enough to come to a definitive conclusion that government forces used chemical weapons,” he said.
U.S. officials have said that they expected Russia’s fears over Assad’s use of chemical weapons would weaken Putin’s support for the Syrian leader and provide momentum for the stalled effort to hold a peace conference next month in Geneva.
Instead, the responses from Ban and the Russians demonstrated the challenge the United States, Britain and France face in persuading the world that Syria has used chemical weapons. Analysts here suggest that the effort is more difficult because of the false claims about weapons of mass destruction used by the United States and Britain to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
To buttress its claims, the Obama administration provided Ban with what it said was evidence that Assad has used chemical weapons against the opposition.
Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said she presented Ban with a letter that “outlined additional information that we think could contribute” to the U.N.’s understanding of the Syrian situation if inspectors are allowed into the country.