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Syria: West planning military strike

August 28, 2013

David Cameron must show that any military action will not wreck the prospect of a political settlement to end the Syrian civil war

Britain launches bid for UN resolution on Syria as military prepares for strike against Assad regime – follow latest updates.

• Britain drafts UN resolution on Syria
• US to publish chemical weapons attack evidence
• Syrian Electronic Army attack New York Times and Twitter
• Poll: should the UK pursue military action against Syria?
• David Cameron: we must act now against Assad

16.50 Meanwhile, in Syria, the deputy foreign minister has accused the West of encouraging the rebels to use poison gas.

Faisal Muqdad said:

The terrorist groups used sarin gas in several areas of the country… with the encouragement of the Americans, the British and French.

“The encouragement of these Western countries must stop because by defending these terrorists… these groups will soon turn their chemical arms against the people of Europe.”

16.27 More from William Hague at the Foreign Office: “It is time the United Nations Security Council shoulders its responsibility on Syria which for the last two and a half years it has failed to do.”

He admitted, however, that a new resolution was unlikely.

Here’s his statement in full:

We have put forward to them a draft resolution which condemns the use of chemical weapons, which demands that the Assad regime cease to use such weapons and which resolves to do what is necessary to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people affected by chemical weapons attacks and to try to prevent the further use of the chemical stockpiles of the Assad regime.

“I expect there will be further discussions in New York over the coming days but we have started those discussions about a UN resolution, because by far the best thing would be if the United Nations could be united, unlikely as that seems in the face of vetoes from Russia and China that we have had in the past, but we have to try to do that.

“We are clear that if there can’t be agreement, if there isn’t agreement at the United Nations, then we still have a responsibility, we and other nations, still have a responsibility.

“This is the first use of chemical warfare in the 21st century, it has to be unacceptable, we have to confront something that is a war crime, something that is a crime against humanity.

“If we don’t do so then we will have to confront even bigger war crimes in the future. So we continue to look for a strong response from the international community, that is legal, that is proportionate and that is designed to deter the further and future use of chemical weapons.”

16.20 Mr Hague wrote in The Daily Telegraph this morning that “this is a moment for democratic nations to live up to their values.”

He adds:

We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons in the 21st century to go unchallenged. That would send a signal to the Syrian regime that they will never face any consequences for their actions, no matter how barbarous.

16.07 William Hague, the foreign secretary, is giving a press conference at the Foreign Office now.

“This is a very different situation from Iraq, and our government is going about it in an entirely different way,” he said.

16.02 Jon Swaine, our man in New York, is at the United Nations headquarters. He has just sent in this report:

Britain’s draft resolution was being debated in New York on Wednesday morning by diplomats from the UN Security Council’s five permanent members – Britain, France, the US, Russia and China.

British officials hoped to take the motion to a meeting of all 15 members of the security council later in the day.

They declined to release the text of the resolution.

However Downing Street confirmed it would propose “authorising all necessary measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter”, which empowers the organisation to use military force, in order to protect Syrian civilians from chemical weapons.

The same phrase was used in the resolution proposed by Britain, France and Lebanon in 2011 to authorise military action against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya.

However while Russia and China on that occasion abstained, allowing the intervention to proceed, diplomats from the eastern powers have signalled that this time they will move to veto any western action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

15.58 Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, is talking about the situation now.

He says that “all options” remain on the table.

Worth remembering, however, the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the most vociferous of leaders in calling for a UN response to the chemical weapons attack.

15.45 Ambassadors from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States have started talks on a British drafted UN Security Council resolution to allow military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Talks are taking place behind closed doors at the UN’s New York offices. Russia is opposing the British resolution and is demanding a delay until chemical weapons inspectors report back in four days.

Free Syrian Army fighters escort a convoy of U.N. vehicles carrying a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts during their visit to one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus’ suburbs of Zamalka

15.20 Wael al-Halqi, the Syrian prime minister, has told state television that Syria will “surprise the invaders and it will become their graveyard”.

Western countries, starting with the United States, are inventing fake scenarios and fictitious alibis to intervene militarily in Syria

15.00 Syria will become a “graveyard of invaders”, says Wael al-Halqi, the country’s prime minister. More to come.

14.40 Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general, has said that the use of chemical wepaons is a threat to international peace and “cannot go unanswered”.

By Harriet Alexander, Barney Henderson and Bruno Waterfield

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