Don't go it alone in attack against Syria, China tells US

Beijing opposes military action and says political resolution the only way to solve Syrian crisis

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 September, 2013, 12:32pm

China yesterday urged the US not to take unilateral action against Syria in response to last month's chemical weapons attack against civilians.

This comes as nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and other ships in its strike group headed west towards the Red Sea to help support a limited US attack and Russia said it was sending a reconnaissance ship to the eastern Mediterranean.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Washington had briefed Beijing over the matter and China was highly concerned about any use of chemical weapons.

But he said China opposed the US acting alone and believed any response must conform to the UN Charter and the basic principles underlying international relations.

"China … holds the belief that a political resolution is the only realistic way to solve the Syrian issue," Hong said.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin hopes to send a delegation of Russian lawmakers to the United States to discuss the situation in Syria with members of Congress, the Interfax news agency reported yesterday. But it would require formal approval by the foreign ministry. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said the information the US showed Moscow to prove the Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack was "absolutely unconvincing".

In Paris, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault presented a document to lawmakers, which said at 281 people died in the August 21 chemical weapons attack. It is a figure markedly lower than that provided by Washington of at least 1,400 deaths.

A senior government Socialist who heads parliament's foreign affairs committee said the French government should not bow to calls from the opposition to have lawmakers vote on the issue.

President Francois Hollande has been left out on a limb since the British Parliament voted against carrying out punitive strikes and US President Barack Obama said he would seek Congress approval before any action.

Meeting in Cairo, Arab League foreign ministers issued a statement calling on the United Nations and international community to protect Syrian civilians, without explicitly endorsing US military strikes.

Syria's opposition National Coalition had earlier pleaded with the ministers to back a US-led strike, while Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said failure to do so would bolster President: Bashar al-Assad's forces to "pursue its crimes".

A UN investigative team that left Syria on Saturday would start delivering samples today for analysis by labs in Europe.

A spokesman said Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon planned to brief non-permanent Security Council members on the status of the inspection tomorrow before leaving for Russia for a Group of 20 summit meeting.

  • Nearly 90 rebels were killed near the Syrian capital over the past 48 hours, a watchdog said yesterday, as fighting raged ahead of possible foreign military action against the regime. At least 29 of those killed, among them non-Syrians, died in an army ambush yesterday in Adra, northeast of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Reuters