UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also urged restraint, shortly after Washington, capping a series of accusations against Syria in recent weeks, threatened sanctions over its charges that Damascus was harbouring members of the deposed Iraqi leadership, developing chemicals weapons programmes and actively sponsoring terrorism. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 14 April that the US administration would ‘examine possible measures of a diplomatic, economic or other nature’ against Syria, which White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had earlier referred to as a ‘rogue nation’, saying President Asad was an untested leader who now had the chance ‘to be a leader who makes the right decisions’.

Although Annan welcomed recent British clarifications that Syria was not on the list to be targeted for military action, he warned that the US’ aggressive rhetoric would prove to be counter-productive in the long run. ‘The secretary-general is concerned that recent statements directed at Syria should not contribute to a wider destabilisation in a region already affected heavily by the war in Iraq,’ a UN spokesman said on 14 April. ‘He reiterates his strongly-held view that any claim of threats to international peace and security should be addressed in conformity with the provisions of the [UN] charter.’