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5th Jul 2020

UK and US ready to strike Syria without UN say-so

  • UN building in New York: Russia has blocked three previous UN resolutions on Syria (Photo: un.or)

Russia and China on Wednesday (28 August) in New York said No to a military strike on Syria, but the US and the UK are saying they do not need UN permission.

The meeting of the five veto powers of the UN Security Council - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US - ended with China and Russia refusing to accept a UK draft UN resolution.

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The British text, in the words of a Downing Street spokesman, refers to "condemning the attack by the Assad regime, and authorising all necessary measures under chapter 7 of the UN charter to protect civilians from chemical weapons," referring to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and a clause in the UN constitution which allows the use of force.

"To discuss some kind of [UN] security council resolution before the UN inspectors working in Syria have presented their report would be at the least premature," Russian deputy PM Vladimir Titov told the Interfax news agency after the UN meeting.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said in a statement on Thursday morning: "A political solution is the only way forward on the Syrian issue."

Russia's words were echoed by UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon, who appealed for the inspectors to be "given more time."

The UN's special envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, also noted: "International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the security council."

But for his part, British foreign minister William Hague told British media ahead of the UN event that the UK is ready to take action with or without a UN blessing.

"We are clear that … if there isn't agreement at the United Nations, then we still have a responsibility. We and other nations still have a responsibility," he noted.

US President Barack Obama said on national TV he has "not yet decided" whether or not to launch strikes.

But he added he has "all the evidence" he needs that al-Assad killed hundreds of people in a chemical strike on the outskirts of Damascus last week and that he intends to send a "pretty strong signal" for him "not to do it again."

A state department spokeswoman Marie Harf spelled out the US position following the latest UN deadlock.

"We cannot be held up in responding by Russia’s intransigence, continued intransigence, at the United Nations," she said.

"We firmly believe that we worked through the security council process this morning. Clearly, Russia remains intransigent on it, and we feel it is imperative for us in the international community to respond," she added.

She said Syria has destroyed too much evidence by shelling the area in which the the UN weapons inspectors are currently at work.

She declined to say what non-UN legal basis exists for military intervention.

She also noted that, while the US plans to publish parts of declassified intelligence report on the chemical attack, "the intelligence information we are able to provide publicly will be limited in scope" for security reasons.

Inside the EU, Britain has taken the lead in pushing for action.

It has recalled parliament from its summer recess for a discussion on Thursday.

The government's draft parliament resolution says "that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action," and "notes the failure of the United Nations Security Council over the last two years to take united action."

France has also signaled willingness to take part in strikes despite a split in public opinion, with 40 percent of people against the move in a fresh Atlantico poll.

Germany has indicated its military will not get involved, but has given Britain and France its political support.

Italy on Wednesday broke ranks, however.

Its foreign minister, Emma Bonino, told parliament that EU countries should not go ahead without UN approval.

She added: "There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict. The only solution is a politically negotiated solution … The option of a limited intervention risks becoming unlimited," she added.

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