Britain, US under pressure to delay Syria intervention

Ban Ki-moon urges hawks to await inspection result

Free Syrian Army fighters check the amount of ammunition they have for their weapons near Aleppo international airport. With an impending military attack on Syria now all but certain, UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon urged western leaders to await the outcome of the four-day missionto to determine the use of  chemical weapons, which is expected to finish tomorrow.

Free Syrian Army fighters check the amount of ammunition they have for their weapons near Aleppo international airport. With an impending military attack on Syria now all but certain, UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon urged western leaders to await the outcome of the four-day missionto to determine the use of chemical weapons, which is expected to finish tomorrow.

Thu, Aug 29, 2013, 08:23


Britain and the US were under pressure last night to delay military action in Syria until the United Nations completes its investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

With an impending military attack now all but certain, UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon urged western leaders to await the outcome of the four-day mission, which is expected to finish tomorrow.

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His comments came as Britain’s opposition leader, Ed Miliband, called on the prime minister to report back to the House of Commons after the UN inspection was completed. He said Labour would table its own amendment on Syria when MPs voted today on a response to last week’s apparent chemical attack.

In a sign that the British government is prepared to delay intervention, the motion will not now oblige MPs to authorise direct British involvement in military action against Syria. Instead it states “a further vote of the House of Commons will take place” before such involvement is sanctioned.

No climbdown
Downing Street dismissed suggestions that the motion indicated a climbdown on the part of the prime minister. “This motion endorses the government’s consistent approach that we should take action in response to Assad,” a spokeswoman said.

Earlier, Britain appeared to take command of the stand-off regarding intervention, announcing it would put forward a resolution at the UN Security Council in New York to authorise “necessary measures to protect civilians” in Syria.

That resolution was still being debated last night in New York, with British foreign secretary William Hague indicating the discussion could take several days. Russia and China – two of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members – opposed military action.

A US state department spokeswoman said yesterday the US would take “appropriate” action without UN approval. Russian opposition to security council action should not be allowed to shield the Syrian government, she said.

Meanwhile US officials outlined details of the planned action against Syria in anonymous briefings, saying it would involve Tomahawk cruise missiles being launched from naval ships in the eastern Mediterranean on forces in Syria that had ordered and carried out last week’s gas attack.

The New York Times, citing an American official, reported that the targets included fewer than 50 sites including air bases, command centres and conventional military targets.

‘Graveyard of invaders’
Yesterday, the Syrian government continued to deny its involvement in the alleged chemical attack, blaming rebel “terrorists” for releasing the toxins with the help of the United States, Britain and France. Syria would become a “graveyard of invaders” if the West attacked, it said.

There were also fears that Irish troops serving with United Nations peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon and to be deployed to the Golan Heights area next month could be at risk from reprisals should the US and her allies launch air strikes on Syria.

About 360 Irish military personnel are serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil), while a further 115 will be deployed on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria next month. Any attacks on Syria could expose UN troops to reprisals .

Meanwhile, Nato general secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen said information “from a wide variety of sources” pointed to the Syrian regime as the perpetrators of last week’s chemical attack.