Activists wear gas masks as they look for
dead bodies near Damascus.
Syria action possible without UN backing: UK
London, August 26, 2013
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday it would be possible to respond to chemical weapons use in Syria without the unanimous backing of the United Nations Security Council.
UN inspectors will visit on Monday the site of an alleged chemical weapon attack which killed hundreds last week, but Britain and the United States have made clear they believe the access was granted too late and that the Syrian government was behind the attack.
"Is it possible to respond to chemical weapons without complete unity on the UN Security Council? I would argue yes it is, otherwise it might be impossible to respond to such outrages, such crimes, and I don't think that's an acceptable situation," Hague said on BBC radio.
Britain has been among the major western governments calling for a strong international response to the alleged chemical attack.
"The United Nations Security Council ... has not been united on Syria, has not shouldered its responsibilities on Syria, bluntly, otherwise there would have been a better chance of bringing this conflict to an end a long time ago," Hague said.
The UN Security Council has been hamstrung by the opposition of veto-wielding members, Russia and China, to any firm action.
"Whatever we do will be in accordance with international law and will be based on legal advice to the national security council and to the cabinet," he added.
However, French foreign minister said no decision had been made yet on whether to take military action against Syria, but doing so outside the auspices of the UN Security Council would be problematic.
"It is a problem that will be difficult," Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio.
"International law is defined by the United Nations, but at same time there are countries (on the council) that are blocking (military action)- China and Russia have blocked and would probably block again so it would be a problem...
"In certain circumstances we can bypass it, but international law does exist," he said without elaborating.
All options on how to respond to the poison gas attack in the Damascus suburbs were still open. "The only one that is not on the table is to not do anything," he added.
In an interview published by a Russian newspaper on Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed claims his forces used chemical weapons and warned Washington that any US military intervention would fail.
Fabius said there was no doubt that Assad's forces were behind the attack, reiterating comments made by the French government on Sunday.
"There has been a chemical attack, it's the responsibility of Assad's regime and so there must be a reaction."
Meanwhile, Russia has expressed its concern to Washington that the US will respond militarily to a suspected chemical weapons attack and urged restraint, Russia's Foreign Ministry said.
Referring to a telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday, the ministry said Moscow had also urged Washington to refrain from falling for "provocations".
"The minister (Lavrov) stressed that the official announcements from Washington in recent days about the readiness of US armed forces to 'intervene' in the Syrian conflict have been received in Moscow with deep concern," the ministry said in a statement.
US remarks that Syria's agreement to allow the UN to inspect the site of the suspected chemical weapons attack was "too late to be credible" appeared to signal a military response was more likely.
A senior senator said he believed President Barack Obama would ask for authorisation to use force when Congress returned from recess next month.
But Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has suggested rebels may have been behind the alleged chemical weapons attack. - Reuters