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Military response to alleged Syria chemical attack may be delayed until Tuesday as Obama warns Syria of 'international consequences'
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Nicholas Wat t , Julian Borger , Nick Hopkins The Guardian, Wednesday 28 August 2 01 3 2 1 .36 BST
UN chem ical weapons experts wearing gas m asks carr y sam ples from one of the sites of an alleged attack in Dam ascus. Photograph: Reuters
Allied air strikes against the Syrian government over the alleged use of chemical weapons could be delayed until next week in the face of strong opposition in the UK parliament to British involvement in immediate military action. The British prime minister, David Cameron, conceded that MPs would be given a second vote to approve military action to defuse a parliamentary revolt, ahead of a Commons debate on Syria on Thursday. Whitehall sources indicated that the US, which had
In a reflection of the different political pressures pulling the transatlantic allies in different directions.planned to launch the strikes by the weekend. possibly including force in principle." the state department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "If in fact we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemcial weapons. UN officials said the report could take another week or more to produce. it had "passed the point where it can be credible". "We are going to make our own decisions on our own timelines about our response. eastern Damascus. because of Russian support for Bashar al-Assad's regime. Washington made it clear it saw no need to wait for a report by UN inspectors currently in Damascus investigating the gas attack. the US and UK will on Thursday publish a joint summary of the intelligence which they say points towards the Assad regime's responsibility for the poison gas attack of 21 August in Ghouta. estimated to have killed more than 1. that killed over 1. but that Syria needed to understand there were "international consequences" for its actions. Direct action would depend on a second vote which in turn would be held after the UN weapons inspectors had reported back.000 people." Obama told PBS.000 people. Downing Street undertook to return to the security council in a renewed effort to secure a UN mandate for military action after Russia blocked a British resolution at an informal meeting in New York. The House of Commons will be asked by the government on Thursday to approve a "strong humanitarian response". The inspectors . She added that because of initial Syrian government obstruction of the UN investigation. is prepared to revive a back-up plan to delay the strikes until Tuesday when Barack Obama is due to set out for the G20 summit in Russia. But the US state department meanwhile insisted it saw "no avenue forward" at the UN for finding an international consensus for armed action. Obama said in a television interview on Wednesday that he had not taken a final decision on air strikes. the UK is now committed to wait for the UN report. Furthermore. Such a move by the Obama administration would effectively hand Cameron a political lifeline after the opposition Labour party threatened to inflict a defeat on the Conservative-led coalition in parliament. then the Assad regime will have received a pretty strong signal that in fact it had better not do it again. In an effort to build support for punitive strikes. However.
Bashar alJaafari. With as many as 70 Tory MPs threatening to rebel." Speaking in London the British foreign secretary. The samples would then have to be subjected to laboratory analysis. It has to be unacceptable. we have to confront something that is a war crime. then we will have to confront even bigger war crimes in the future. said it was time for the UN to act. UK and France to back off and allow UN weapons inspectors to complete their investigation into last week's chemical attack outside Damascus. the envoy said. Jaafari urged the US. Syria warned of "grave consequences" if US-led military action goes ahead. adding that the toppling of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi by Nato-backed rebels in 2011 had "spread terrorists all over Africa". If we don't do so. bringing their presence to the two weeks agreed with Damascus. putting the prime minister under intense pressure. The Syrian government is against the use of chemical weapons by all means – this is a moral obscenity. A spokeswoman said Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons violated "the general law of war" while the use and proliferation of such weapons represented a threat to America's core national interests. or a politically damaging narrow victory. "This is the first use of chemical warfare in the 21st century. "We should keep in mind what happened in Iraq and Libya". Syria's ambassador to the UN. In his interview with PBS. William Hague. British opposition leader Ed Miliband announced just after 5pm BST that he would instruct his MPs to vote against the government motion if a separate Labour amendment – calling for any action to be . The sole purpose of the threat of airstrikes was "undermining the inspection team. the transatlantic ties could fray further. Cameron had faced the prospect of a defeat.will continue to collect samples at the Ghouta site for the next four days. something that is a crime against humanity. we are a peaceful nation seeking stability in the area." Jaafari added: "We are not war mongers. Obama said that it was in America's "core self-interest" to prevent chemical weapons being used in a volatile area. told reporters outside the security council in New York on Wednesday that the effect could be felt across the Middle East. when MPs vote on Thursday evening on a motion calling for a proportionate response." The state department also gave more details of its intended justification for military action. near allies such as Turkey and Israel. If the wait for the UN report extends much beyond Tuesday.
advised the NSC that such action would be legal under international law. The debate will be preceded by a meeting of the cabinet that will approve a recommendation from the National Security Council that Britain should join the military strikes. which is thought to be potentially within range of ." The No 10 move is likely to take the heat out of Thursday's parliamentary debate that will be opened by Cameron at 2. reflects the need to proceed on a consensual basis. The motion says: "Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place." "So this motion endorses the government's consistent approach that we should take action in response to Assad's chemical weapons attack.delayed – was defeated. That's why we are committed to taking action to deal with this war crime – but taking action in the right way. But Labour hit back and said that the prime minister had been resisting a second vote until Miliband tweeted his plan to table his own amendment. A Labour source said: "We will continue to scrutinise this motion but at 5. that a second vote would have to be held before Britain joins any military action. and reflects the prime minister's respect for the UN process – something he made clear to President Obama several days ago. Within two hours the British government announced. at 10pm. the British attorney general. an hour and a half later he changed his mind. subject to legal approval. A spokesperson said: "The prime minister is acutely aware of the deep concerns in the country caused by what happened over Iraq. It has taken Labour forcing a vote to force the government to do the right thing. Ed was determined to do the right thing.30pm and wound up by Nick Clegg." Downing Street said the prime minister offered a second vote because he wants to act in a consensual way." Downing Street was furious with Miliband and accused him of having suffered a giant "wobble" after he had appeared to indicate on Tuesday night that he would be prepared to support military action. This focused on a "limited one-off" operation and the measures that might have to be taken to protect British interests in the region. proceeding on a consensual basis. Dominic Grieve. the deputy prime minister. The National Security Council also agreed a specific plan for a British contribution to military action.15pm David Cameron totally ruled out a second vote. as it published its motion for the debate. including the defence of the UK's sovereign base in Cyprus. taking account of the work done by weapons inspectors.
Though considered unlikely. Additional reporting by Ed Pilkington at the United Nations Sign up for the Guardian Today Our editors' picks for the day's top news and commentary delivered to your inbox each morning. It would also be politically difficult for the White House. (The New Republic) Why Facebook.President Assad's Scud missiles. American companies partner to help Russian orphans find homes (YekaterinburgNews) Loneliness Can Literally Kill You. like Barack Obama is not obliged to consult the legislature. US officials have stressed that America would not act unilaterally. and its presidential system means that Francois Hollande. and Microsoft Are Making Iowa a Hot Datacenter Destination (Enterprise Efficiency) . Here's How. sources said it was possible the US would act without British support – which would be a huge embarrassment for the prime minister. However. Sign up for the daily email More from the Guardian What's this? Painting of Vladimir Putin in We knew annuities were women's underwear seized bad – but this is dismal by Russian police 2 4 Aug 2 01 3 2 7 Aug 201 3 Syrian rebels claim receipt Brazil's doctors jeer at of major weapons Cuban medics arriving to shipment work in rural health scheme 25 Aug 2 01 3 2 8 Aug 201 3 What's this? More from around the web The Rise of the Awesome Nerd (The Financialist) Russian. Google. British abstention would undermine Washington's claims of broad support. but in concert with partners. France has pledged to take part in punitive action against the Assad regime.
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