Leaders demand Syria allow U.N. to investigate into alleged chemical attack

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
August 22, 2013

Western leaders call for an investigation into Syria’s alleged chemical attack, Bo Xilai gets feisty, and Mubarak leaves prison via helicopter. Today is Thursday, August 22, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

A Free Syrian Army fighter holds a gas mask as he sits inside a house in the besieged area of Homs, August 22, 2013. REUTERS/Yazan Homsy

World reacts to Syria deaths. A day after an alleged chemical attack killed hundreds of Syria in what would be the world’s worst chemical attack in decades, Western leaders called for Syria to allow United Nations chemical weapons inspectors to access affected sites:

After months of negotiating with Assad’s government to let inspectors into Syria, a U.N. team arrived in Damascus four days ago. Their task is to check on the presence, but not the sources, of chemical weapons that are alleged to have been released in three specific, small incidents several months ago. They have no mandate beyond that. A divided U.N. Security Council, meeting in emergency session on Wednesday, failed to endorse a Western push for an immediate inspection of the sites near Damascus. It called only for “clarity” on the incident. Syria’s government offered no immediate public response to calls on Thursday for the U.N. team to have access to the area.

Opposition leaders say the attack was carried out by Assad’s forces, an accusation the Syrian government denies. Russia backed Assad’s denial, calling the attack a “provocation” by rebel forces to discredit the government, while Israel said their intelligence assessments show chemical weapons were used and placed heavy blame on Iran for supporting Assad. A spokesman for the rebels’ Supreme Military Council said the group is deliberating how to respond to the alleged attack, adding that “People are growing desperate as they watch another round of political statements and U.N. meetings without any hope of action.” The Free Syria Army estimated roughly 1,700 casualties from aerial and chemical bombardments that hit near Damascus early Wednesday morning. Other groups suggest a lower count, but say that bodies are still being found.

Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai stands trial inside the court in Jinan, Shandong province, August 22, 2013, in this photo released by Jinan Intermediate People’s Court. REUTERS/Jinan Intermediate People’s Court/Handout via Reuters

Bo’s day in court. Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai said he was framed in bribery charges against him, kicking off the country’s most political trial in decades:

The 64-year-old former Communist Party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing has been charged with illegally taking almost 27 million yuan ($4.41 million), corruption and abuse of power and will almost certainly be found guilty. Bo’s denial of the charges and strong language as he made his first public appearance since being ousted early last year were unexpected. But observers said he could have agreed to choreographed proceedings that would show authorities in an impartial light in exchange for a pre-arranged sentence.

The trial exposes divisions in Chinese society, with Bo’s supporters representing a socialist sensibility and his detractors espousing Beijing’s more capitalist tendencies. Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to tout the trial as an example of his commitment to combating corruption in politics.

A supporter of former president Hosni Mubarak holds his poster to celebrate as she waits for his release in front of the main gate of Tora prison on the outskirts of Cairo, August 22, 2013. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

Mubarak whisked away. A helicopter took former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to a military hospital from Cairo’s Tora prison after an Egyptian prosecutor demanded his release this morning:

Judicial authorities had ordered Mubarak’s release from Tora. His lawyer and other sources said earlier that his first destination would be an upscale hospital northeast of Cairo. The prime minister’s office has said Mubarak will be placed under house arrest.

The decision follows Egypt’s most violent period of internal strife, which left roughly 900 people dead. Egypt has been in turmoil since the July 3 ouster of former president Mohamed Mursi. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for “Friday of martyrs” marches to be held tomorrow in protest of the country’s military-backed interim government.

Nota Bene: Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, 89, is sworn-in for five more years as president.

Standouts:

Personality politics - Author Ben Judah describes how Russia’s opposition movement became the Navalny movement. (Reuters)

Fifty shades of nay - A lawyer dismisses rumors that Fifty Shades of Grey is a favorite among inmates at Guantanamo Bay. (BBC)

Onion nabbers - Rising onion prices tempt highway robbers in India. (The New York Times)

Avant-trash -  A London artist turns garbage into street art. (The Atlantic Cities)

Pocket detective - Tens of thousands of Brazilians download a briefly available boyfriend-tracker app. (The Associated Press)

From the File:

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Samantha Power absent from emergency UN Security Counsel meeting on Syria, not in the UN Building, not at the meeting, seemingly mia

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