United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon suggested on Tuesday that any American intervention in Syria would be illegal under international law unless it was approved by the UN Security Council.
“The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense, or when the Security Council approves such action,” Ban said during a news conference at UN headquarters in New York, according to NBC News.
While Ban said that “we must put an end to the atrocities the Syrian people continue to suffer,” he also urged the international community to “consider the impact of any punitive measure on efforts to prevent further bloodshed and facilitate a political resolution to the conflict.”
United Nations inspectors were in Syria last week to collect samples from the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus. The inspectors left Syria last Friday but Ban has said that it could take up to three weeks for the samples to be tested.
He said on Tuesday that the investigators would have to return to Syria at least once more, and the soil and bio-medical samples gathered on their previous trip would not arrive for analysis until Wednesday
The conclusions of the UN investigation seem unlikely to sway the dynamic on the Security Council, because the investigators’ mandate is only to determine whether or not a chemical weapons attack occurred, not who is responsible.
Asked by a reporter whether the UN investigation’s mandate was limited by the UN or by the Syrian government, Ban said that the UN had decided on its own to restrict the investigation to whether or not an attack occurred, and not determine who carried it out.
The German weekly Der Spiegel has reported that the country’s intelligence agency has enough evidence in its possession to conclude that President Bashar Al-Assad ordered the suspected chemical attack in Syria.
The German agency’s findings are in line with findings of the United States. On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the administration had new evidence that sarin gas was used in the chemical attack.
"We know that the regime ordered this attack," he said. "We know they prepared for it. We know where the rockets came from. We know where they landed. We know the damage that was done afterwards."
On Monday, French lawmakers were shown similar intelligence laying the blame for the chemical attack at the door of the Syrian military, leading to calls for a strong military reaction.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is continuing to try to secure support in Congress for a strike in Syria in response to the chemical attack.
Obama got some support on Monday from Republican Senator John McCain, who said that a vote by Congress against the President's proposal for using military force in Syria would be catastrophic.
"If the Congress were to reject a resolution like this after the president of the United States has already committed to action, the consequences would be catastrophic," McCain said.