U.S. deeply concerned by reported chemical weapon use in Damascus

The U.S. is deeply concerned by the reported use of chemical weapons in an attack by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, the White House said on Wednesday.

Josh Earnest, the White House's principal deputy press secretary, made the statement on Wednesday. Earnest said the U.S. was urgently working to gather information about the attacks, which reportedly left hundreds of Syrian civilians dead. He said the U.S. was issuing a formal request that the U.N. investigate the new allegation.

"The U.N. investigative team, which is currently in Syria, is prepared to do so, and that is consistent with its purpose and mandate," Earnest said. "For the U.N.'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."

Earnest said if the Syrian government is committed to an impartial investigation and has nothing to hide, it will give the U.N. team immediate and undisturbed access to the Damascus site.

The U.S. also called for consultations in the U.N. Security Council to discuss the allegations. Earnest said the U.S. urges all parties in Syria to provide immediate access to all important sites and to ensure the safety of the U.N. team.

Earnest said the U.S. strongly condemns any and all use of chemical weapons and said people responsible for chemical weapon use must be held accountable.