The Latest: Britain urges Russia, China to back UN action

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BEIRUT (AP) – The Latest on the suspected chemical attack in Syria’s northern Idlib province (all times local):

6 p.m.

Britain is urging Russia and China not to block action against those responsible for a suspected chemical attack in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province which it is calling “a war crime.”

Britain and France have called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, which is scheduled to hold its monthly meeting on Syria’s chemical weapons on Wednesday. Diplomats said that meeting could be moved up to later Tuesday.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the attack earlier Tuesday “has all the hallmarks of a regime attack” because the Syrian government is the only party to the conflict equipped to deliver deadly chemicals.

Rycroft called the attack “clearly a war crime” and indirectly criticized Russia and China for protecting Syria by vetoing previous council resolutions.

The ambassador said he hoped for a different approach from “the Security Council members who have previously used their vetoes to defend the indefensible.”

Rycroft said an emergency council meeting would “shine a spotlight on the heinous use of chemical weapons yet again” in Syria, rally support for action in the council, and put pressure on Russia and China “to hold to account those who used chemical weapons.”

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5:50 p.m.

United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura is calling for the perpetrators of a suspected chemical attack in a northern province to be held accountable for the “horrific” attack.

De Mistura called Tuesday for “clear identification of responsibilities and accountability.”

Speaking on the eve of a conference on Syria’s future, he said “every time we have a moment in which the international community is capable of being together – 70 countries tomorrow – there is someone, somehow, that tries to undermine that feeling of hope by producing a feeling of horror and outrage.”

But, he added, “we are not going to give up.”

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5:40 p.m.

The European Union’s top diplomat says the United Nations, EU and world financial institutions have begun technical work to figure out what will be needed to rebuild war-ravaged Syria.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Tuesday that the work is meant to foster peace efforts by giving Syrians a sense of their post-conflict future.

Speaking on the eve of an international conference on Syria, Mogherini said “it is easier to imagine peace if you are given some hope that that process can be supported by others.”

She said that too often in the past, the international community has appeared “taken by surprise (by) the end of the conflict.”

Officials from 70 countries are expected in Brussels for the Wednesday conference following reports that a suspected chemical attack killed dozens in northern Syria.

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5:30 p.m.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has categorically rejected the claim that its planes attacked a northern Syrian town with chemical weapons.

The ministry said that “Russian air force planes haven’t dealt any strikes on Khan Sheikhoun in the province of Idlib.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday’s raid killed 58, including 11 children. It said the toll is likely to climb further because of the large number of injured.

Syrian opposition activists have described Tuesday’s attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun as among the worst poison gas attacks in the country’s six-year civil war.

They claimed the attack was caused by an airstrike carried out either by the Syrian government or Russian warplanes.

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5 p.m.

A doctor in northern Syria’s Idlib province says he believes the suspected chemical attack is the worst the country has witnessed since 2013, when hundreds were killed in a Damascus suburb.

Dr. AbdulHai Tennari, a pulmonologist who treated dozens of patients in the Tuesday attack, said it appeared to be more serious than a chlorine attack. His hometown Idlib has been the scene a number of chlorine attacks. Tennari says doctors are struggling to deal with the victims, amid a shortage of facilities and medical supplies, and the antidote used to save patients is in short supply.

Tennari compared Tuesday’s attack that killed dozens to the 2013 one in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta that killed hundreds. A Russian-negotiated deal followed, forcing the Syrian government to destroy 1,300 tons of chemical weapons and precursor chemicals

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4:40 p.m.

Turkey’s foreign minister is condemning the suspected chemical attack by Syrian government forces and criticizing the West for not intervening for similar attacks in the past.

The state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Mevlut Cavusoglu Tuesday as calling the attack “a crime against humanity.”

Cavusoglu also criticized Western nations who, he said, give frequent lectures to the Middle East on human rights but, “remained carefree when the red line was crossed before.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group put the death toll from the gas attack at 58, saying there were 11 children among the dead.

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4:30 p.m.

France’s foreign minister is calling for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting over a suspected chemical attack in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province.

Jean-Marc Ayrault condemned the “atrocious act” in a statement Tuesday, saying he is seeking the emergency meeting because of events of extreme gravity “that threaten international security.”

Ayrault said Tuesday’s attack caused “a large number of victims, including children.” Opposition activists say the attack killed dozens of people and was among the worst in Syria’s six-year civil war.

France has supported Syrian rebels against President Bashar Assad for years, and lobbied for an international military campaign against Assad over his use of chemical weapons in 2013. France is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

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4:15 p.m.

Israel’s prime minister is calling for the world to rid Syria of chemical weapons after a suspected chemical attack killed dozens of people there.

Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, he was “shocked and outraged” by images of the victims and called on the international community to “fully and finally remove these horrible weapons from Syria.”

In a rare clash along the Syrian border last month, Israel shot down an anti-aircraft missile fired at its planes as they were carrying out an airstrike on a suspected weapons convoy from Syria to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

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4 p.m.

The international chemical weapons watchdog says it is gathering and analyzing information about a suspected chemical attack in northern Syria’s Idlib province.

A Syrian opposition monitoring group says that Tuesday’s suspected chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun killed 58 people, including 11 children, and warned the toll is likely to rise.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says its Fact Finding Mission “is in the process of gathering and analyzing information from all available sources.”

The mission will report its findings to the OPCW’s executive council. Syria joined the organization in 2013.

The organization, which won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for its chemical disarmament efforts, says it “strongly condemns the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances.”

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3:45 p.m.

The European Union’s top diplomat says Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government must assume its responsibilities following reports of a suspected chemical attacks in northern Syria that killed dozens of people.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday that “the news is awful” and that Assad’s government “has the primary responsibility of protecting its people and not attacking its people.”

She said the attack in a town in Idlib province “is a dramatic reminder of the fact that the first priority is, as in any conflict, stopping the fighting.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group put the death toll from the gas attack at 58, saying there were 11 children among the dead.

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2:35 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say an airstrike has hit a small field hospital in a town in northern Syria where a suspected chemical weapons attack took place earlier in the day.

The head of the opposition’s civil defense force in Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib provice, says the hospital was struck hours after the alleged gas attack that killed dozens of people.

The man who goes by the name of Abu Hamdu says the medical point has been leveled and five rescue vehicles were damaged. It wasn’t clear if anyone was killed.

He says warplanes “targeted us after the attack.”

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12:45 p.m.

A Syrian opposition monitoring group has raised the death toll in a suspected chemical attack in northern Idlib province to 58.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the dead include 11 children and says the toll is likely to climb further because of the large number of injured.

Syrian opposition activists have described Tuesday’s attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun as among the worst poison gas attacks in the country’s six-year civil war.

The activists had no details on what agent could have been used in the assault. They claimed the attack was caused by an airstrike carried out either by the Syrian government or Russian warplanes.

There was no immediate comment by Syrian or Russian officials or any international agency on the attack

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