Tue, Sep 03, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Syria asks UN to ‘prevent aggression’ as Obama rallies support for strike

AFP, DAMASCUS

Syria has asked the UN to try to “prevent any aggression” against it, state news agency SANA said yesterday, as the US weighs military action against Damascus.

“The Syrian government calls on the UN secretary-general to assume his responsibilities ... and to make efforts to prevent any aggression against Syria,” the agency said, quoting a letter from Syria’s UN representative, Bashar al-Jaafari.

The letter also urged the UN to help seek a “peaceful political solution to the crisis” in Syria, where more than 110,000 people have been killed in violence since an uprising against the regime began in March 2011.

US President Barack Obama is seeking approval from US Congress for military action against Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack on Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds.

Much of the international community, including the US, Britain and France, has accused the Syrian regime of carrying out the attack, a charge that the government in Damascus denies.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said Syria used sarin gas and France was yesterday set to provide what it says is clear evidence the regime was behind the alleged chemical attack.

“The Syrian government repeats once again that it has never used chemical weapons,” al-Jaafari wrote in the letter.

“The world was expecting the United States to play its role as a sponsor of peace ... by preparing seriously for the Geneva conference on Syria, and not as a country that uses military force against those who oppose its policies,” he added.

Earlier in the year, the US and Russia said they would work to organize a peace conference in Geneva to seek a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

However, the efforts have gradually fallen apart, with leaders announcing successive delays to the mooted meeting.

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov yesterday said that military action against Damascus would put off chances for a peace conference “a long time, if not forever.”

Russia said it was totally unconvinced by the evidence presented by the US and its allies of the alleged chemical attack outside Damascus.

“What we were shown before and most recently by our American partners, as well as the British and the French, absolutely does not convince us,” Lavrov said, adding that there were “many doubts” about images of the alleged attack posted on the Internet.

Arab League foreign ministers urged the UN and international community to take “deterrent” action, and blamed the regime for the alleged chemical weapons assault.

A defiant Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insisted that Syria would confront any military action.

With all eyes on Washington, Obama — as well as US Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — made individual calls to members of Congress on Sunday, the official said. More were planned for yesterday, a federal holiday.

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