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Baird says political solution needed to end suffering in Syria

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the "evidence is increasingly clear" that chemical weapons are being used against civilians in Syria, but holds out hope the United Nations will be allowed in to investigate.

"We're deeply concerned about the reports of significant use of chemical weapons," Mr. Baird said at a news conference Friday, following this week's release of graphic images of victims of an apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria this week.

The Canadian government will "do anything humanly possible" to support victims of weapons attacks, Mr. Baird said, adding Canada has given money to support the U.N. group of experts tasked with investigating the affected region of Syria. That U.N. group has so far been blocked from doing its work, though Russia, long a supporter of Syria, reportedly called on Friday for the inspectors to be allowed in.

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"It's quite telling, in fact, that they're not allowing them in," Mr. Baird said Friday of the Syrian response.

Canada is also "troubled" that the United Nations security council "continues to be unable to take decisive action" on what he called "the biggest humanitarian crisis of this century," but Mr. Baird said stopped short of opening the door to any international military intervention in Syria.

"In my judgment, the only end to the suffering of the Syrian people will be a political solution," said Mr. Baird, who spoke with his United Kingdom counterpart earlier on Friday about the subject. "Listen, if there was an easy solution, the security council, Canada and like-minded countries would have tackled it by now, but we're obviously appalled by the violence."

Though there's no formal confirmation chemical weapons are being used - in part because U.N. inspectors haven't been allowed in - Mr. Baird said the evidence is mounting and becoming clear.

President Barack Obama said in one interview Friday that the apparent chemical weapons attack is "a big event of grave concern" and the situation in Syria may require American intervention. Mr. Obama, however, said the United States only undertake action if there was clear evidence, a U.N. mandate and a coalition of support. ***(Link here please to the AP piece or whatever we have on Obama's comments)*** Mr. Baird declined to say whether Canada would pursue anything similar.

"We're going to get the facts first, and talk to our friends and allies before we come to any conclusions," he said.

Two U.N. agencies announced Friday that the number of registered child refugees fleeing Syria has topped one million, with the total number of registered refugees nearing two million.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

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