US ‘won’t seek UN approval’ for military strike on Syria
Cameron tells G20 summit of new scientific evidence showing chemical weapons use in Syria
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (left) welcomes US President Barack Obama before the first working session of the G20 Summit in Constantine Palace in Strelna near St Petersburg, today. Photograph: REUTERS/Grigory Dukor
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has warned against an attack on Syria. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/Reuters
Britain’s prime minister David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel attend the first working session of the G20 Summit in Constantine Palace in Strelna near St Petersburg. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
Heads of state and international organizations attend the first working meeting of the G20 summit. Photograph: Ramil Sitdikov/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images
US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power declared this evening that the US has has given up trying to work with the UN Security Council on Syria, accusing Russia of holding the council hostage and allowing Moscow’s allies in Syria to deploy poison gas against innocent children.
Ms Power’s remarks left no doubt that Washington would not seek UN approval for a military strike on Syria in response to an August 21st chemical attack near Damascus.
Ms Power said a draft resolution Britain submitted to the five permanent council members last week calling for a response to that attack was effectively dead. “I was present in the meeting where the UK laid down the resolution, and everything in that meeting, in word and in body language, suggests that that resolution has no prospect of being adopted, by Russia in particular,” Ms Power told reporters.
Her statement came as the first day of the G20 summit drew to a close in St Petersburg. Britain, France and the US tried today to pile pressure on an increasingly emboldened Vladimir Putin by producing new evidence that lethal sarin nerve gas was used in the notorious chemical attack in Syria in August.
The predominantly British claims were based on tests of clothing and soil samples that David Cameron said had been taken from Syria and tested positive for sarin by scientists at the UK’s testing centre in Porton Down in southern England.
Cameron said that “we were confident and remain confident Assad was responsible” for the attack on Ghouta, east Damascus, and added: “We have just been looking at some samples taken from Damascus in the Porton Down laboratory in Britain which further shows the use of chemical weapons in that Damascus suburb.”
Mr Cameron’s fresh evidence was aggressively dismissed by Russia in an acrimonious end to the first day of the G20 summit in St Petersburg, dominated by the crisis in the Middle East.
A senior spokesman for Mr Putin was reported to have told Russian journalists in a briefing that Britain was “a small island no one listens to”, apart from some oligarchs who had bought Chelsea football club.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, insisted evidence about the use of chemical weapons in Syria should be presented by the UN security council.
Mr Cameron was forced to dismiss the criticism - initially believed to have been made by the Russian president’s press attache, Dimitri Peskov - saying Britain was the leading the argument for a strong response to the use of chemical weapons.
With reports suggesting that United Nations inspectors will take another three weeks before their report can be delivered, the US has the choice of waiting that length of time or going ahead on its own evidence before the UN report is ready.
Mr Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council, said in a statement directed at the summit: “While respecting the recent calls for action, we underscore at the same time the need to move forward with addressing the Syrian crisis through the UN process.”
Chinese vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao said: “Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price - it will cause a hike in the oil price.”