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Pressure continues to be put on the Assad gov -

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TANYA NOLAN: France, who's pressuring other nations to respond with force to the apparent use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians.

The United Nations is demanding the Assad government give its expert team already in Damascus, immediate access to the area, where poison gas appears to have killed hundreds of people.

And it's been reiterated by Syria's strongest ally, Russia, which says the regime should agree to what it calls 'objective inspections'.

Paul Schulte is the former director of proliferation and arms control at the British Ministry of Defence.

He's told our Europe correspondent Mary Gearin, he's sceptical the truth will come out.

PAUL SCHULTE: They want an objective, careful determination they say, and this connects perhaps with Russian suggestions that this is a put up job, this is a provocation, provocatsia, as part of an information warfare campaign and the video images came out suspiciously quickly and biased regional media had pushed them too far and therefore, and anyway there are signs they say that maybe rockets were fired from rebel positions before the impact in the afflicted areas.

So the Russians seem to be building up their counter-story and what they'll want, I imagine, is objectivity in their terms which is an examination of that proposition as against the more widely held belief that it was the government that did it.

MARY GEARIN: What do you believe from your reading of the evidence that you've seen as to who is responsible, and who's got the capability?

PAUL SCHULTE: Well, there's no doubt that the Syrian army has got the capability. They have got certainly high hundreds, probably thousands of tonnes of chemical weapons, which they've never wanted to admit until last year. So they could do it and it is said that at least some of the rockets were fired from aircraft and the Syrian army has got that capability.

So on that basis you'd look at them being the likely culprit. It's not, but then you have to think about the counter, is it possible that the Syrian rebels did this to themselves in some way because there have been other arguments that groups under attack have done this to get outside support, the classic case is the mortar rounds in the market at Sarajevo designed to get Western outrage.

It doesn't seem to be likely. I think it would be a huge gamble that you'd, a) you'd do this to yourself and can you imagine the rage in the parent of the children who were killed that way. And then you'd expect to get away with the fraud? That doesn't seem to be very likely but still, we've got to be cautious in rushing to judgement.

MARY GEARIN: What are the West's options now?

PAUL SCHULTE: They're not really very good, because there's no simple way of protecting the Syrian civilian population from chemical attack, without taking down the Syrian regime and the armed forces. And how do you do that without a complete interventionary regime overthrow campaign of the Iraq type, and the willingness to put up with the insurgency that would undoubtedly follow.

Who is going to put in forces and a coalition which probably wouldn't hold together, that's an additional problem, who do you trust to stay the distance for a decade or so in a place like Syria with the probability of a successful, peaceful outcome very low indeed. That's one option; just I think not a very likely one.

The other is some kind of early punitive strikes. What does it do? It doesn't take away all the chemical weapons. It gives the Syrian regime a licence then to say, well we're not just fighting terrorists, we're fighting traitors and Western intervenors, and therefore we're entitled to do whatever we need to do including, including chemicals. Look what you made us do.

MARY GEARIN: So with the political and military stakes so high it seems unbelievable, but these high profile, shocking images that we're seeing could nonetheless mean that the people responsible don't get prosecuted and that nothing really happens.

PAUL SCHULTE: They'll never get prosecuted if the regime holds in power.

TANYA NOLAN: And that's Paul Schulte, who's the former director of proliferation and arms control at the British Ministry of Defence and he was speaking to our Europe correspondent, Mary Gearin.