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U.S. condemns alleged Syrian chemical weapons attacks, calls for UN investigation

The United States is "deeply concerned" by reports that Syrian government forces on Wednesday killed hundreds of civilians by a variety of means, including with chemical weapons, and is urging the United Nations to investigate, the White House said.

"The United States strongly condemns any and all use of chemical weapons," principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. "Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable."

The main Syrian opposition group said that more than 1,000 people were killed in attacks Wednesday, while activists have estimated the death toll to be in the hundreds. Syria's army has countered that the claims are meant to distract from rebels' recent losses.

The Obama administration has not been able to independently verify the claims, Earnest told reporters during a briefing.

The administration is also calling on the UN to "urgently investigate" this latest round of alleged attacks, Earnest said. "The UN investigative team, which is currently in Syria, is prepared to do so, and that is consistent with its purpose and mandate. For the UN's efforts to be credible, they must have immediate access to witnesses and affected individuals, and have the ability to examine and collect physical evidence without any interference or manipulation from the Syrian government."

"If the Syrian government has nothing to hide and is truly committed to an impartial and credible investigation of chemical weapons use in Syria, it will facilitate the UN team's immediate and unfettered access to this site," Earnest added. "The United States urges all Syrian parties including the government and opposition, to provide immediate access to any and all sites of importance to the investigation and to ensure security for the UN investigative team."

The UN Security Council is set to meet to discuss the latest developments on Wednesday afternoon.