Saturday 27 December 2014

Cameron to stall attack on Syria in climbdown

Published 29/08/2013 | 04:00

Protestors listen to speeches during a rally against the proposed attack on Syria in central London
A suspected gas atack victim is brought to be examined by the team of UN chemical weapons experts in Damascus
Cameron: will wait for report from UN weapons inspectors

BRITAIN has backed down and agreed to delay a military attack on Syria following a growing backlash over the UK's rushed response to the crisis.

Prime Minister David Cameron has now said he will wait for a report by United Nations weapons inspectors before sanctioning "direct British involvement" in the Syrian intervention.

Downing Street said the decision to wait for the UN was based on the "deep concerns" the country still harbours over the Iraq War.

In a statement last night, Downing Street said that it only wanted to proceed on a "consensual basis" and was now wary about becoming embroiled in another divisive conflict in the Middle East in the wake of Iraq.

The Americans were consulted before Mr Cameron's decision was announced and senior White House officials are said to have made it clear that they "respect the British parliament".

MPs will still debate and vote on a motion in the Commons today. They will be asked to support the government's motion which states that a "strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on savings lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria's chemical weapons".

However, crucially, the motion then adds: "Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place."

UN weapons inspectors are not due to leave Syria until Friday, making it unlikely that a second vote will take place before next week.

Ahead of today's vote MPs will be given a dossier of evidence by Downing Street that Whitehall sources have described as "utterly compelling" proof of Bashar al-Assad's involvement in chemical weapons atrocities against his own people.

It will include details of YouTube videos believed to show atrocities being committed by the Syrian regime.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday reiterated that Britain must react urgently to do "what is necessary" to protect civilians and prevent further chemical weapons attacks by Assad's regime.

Nato indicated its strong backing for Britain and the US by saying the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons "cannot go unanswered".

"Information available from a wide variety of sources points to the Syrian regime as responsible for the use of chemical weapons in these attacks," Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general said.

"This is a clear breach of longstanding international norms and practice. Any use of such weapons is unacceptable and cannot go unanswered. Those responsible must be held accountable." The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations claimed that the chemical attacks in Damascus were carried out by terrorist groups.

Meanwhile Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has also signalled his opposition to military intervention in Syria by calling for a "political solution" to the crisis.

Mr Gilmore said he condemned the recent gas attacks in Syria,

but also declared that the Governmentwas opposed to any immediate military action against the Syrian Government.

"I reiterate that only a political solution can bring peace to Syria," he said," he said. (© Daily Telegraph London)

By Peter Dominiczak, Tim Ross and Robert Winnett

Irish Independent

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