Think thrice before striking Syria, China tells US and its allies

China urges caution and its envoy in Damascus tells of fear for his safety, while Assad warns of 'repercussions' against any US military action

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 9:29am

China yesterday called on the US and other countries to "think thrice" before taking military action in Syria, while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned there would be "repercussions" against any US military strike.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi's comments came as Beijing's ambassador in Damascus expressed fears for his safety.

Zhang Xun told the Global Times of a supposed bomb plot by Syrian rebels targeting the embassy, and said shrapnel from a mortar attack had hit his residence.

In a phone conversation with his US counterpart, John Kerry, on Sunday, Wang said the Syrian crisis should be dealt with under the framework of the United Nations Security Council.

Wang's warning comes as US President Barack Obama is soliciting support both at home and abroad for military intervention against the Syrian government - which is accused of using sarin gas against its civilians - bypassing the UN.

Wang said China opposed the use of chemical weapons, but also added that also was opposed to the use of force in international relations and urged relevant countries to "think thrice" on taking action in Syria.

China and the US should take the lead in upholding the UN Charter and give full play to the UN Security Council's role in safeguarding international peace and security, Wang said. President Xi Jinping delivered similar remarks to Obama last week, saying a military strike could not solve the problem.

To be honest, it would be a lie if I said I am not a little bit scared
Zhang Yun, Beijing's ambassador in Damascus

Assad again denied being behind the August 21 chemical attack, and warned of serious consequences in the event of a US attack.

"You should expect everything," Assad told the American CBS network. "Not necessarily from the government. It's not only the government ... in this region. You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology."

Asked if he was making a threat of a direct military response to any such attack, Assad was vague, saying at one point: "I am not fortune-teller to tell you what's going to happen."

Assad said his forces were not in the area of the chemical weapons attack, saying "our soldiers in another area were attacked chemically".

With tensions rising in the Syrian capital, the Chinese embassy in Damascus has assigned eight armed police officers to protect its diplomats after it allegedly became a target of Syrian opposition forces.

China has angered rebels by vetoing a UN resolution condemning the Syrian government over the ongoing bloodshed.

Ambassador Zhang said the embassy was told by local anti-terrorism authorities that one of their drivers was recruited by Syrian opposition to place bombs under the embassy's car.

"To be honest, it would be a lie if I said I am not a little bit scared," he said.

Reuters, Xinhua. Additional reporting by Teddy Ng