An attack on Syria would be dangerous and irresponsible, and the world should remember the Iraq war was started by US allegations of weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be false, Xinhua news agency said yesterday.
The US has served Syrian President Bashar al-Assad notice that it believes he was responsible for chemical weapons being used against civilians last week.
Military chiefs from the US and its European and Middle Eastern allies have met in Jordan for what could be a council of war, should they decide to punish al-Assad, who has denied using chemical weapons and blamed rebels for the attacks.
Xinhua said that Western nations were rushing to conclusions about who may have used chemical weapons before UN inspectors had completed their investigation.
“Such rhetoric, as well as the recent flurry of consultations between Washington and its allies, indicates that they have put the arrow on the bowstring and would shoot even without a UN mandate,” it said in an English-language commentary. “That would be irresponsible and dangerous. For starters, the current scenario is reminiscent of the lead-up to the Iraq War, which the United States staged with allegations about weapons of mass destruction that later turned out to be false.”
Xinhua commentaries do not carry the same weight as government statements, but they can be read as a reflection of official Chinese thinking.
China has urged all parties not to jump to conclusions about the results of the UN probe, and has urged calmness in dealing with the accusations.
“In the heat of the crisis, all parties concerned should keep their heads cool, especially those impatient to take military actions without a UN mandate,” it said. “It is imperative that the United States and like-minded countries refrain from hasty armed invention and let the UN play its due part in determining how to act accordingly.”
Russia, al-Assad’s key ally and arms supplier, says rebel forces may have been behind the attack and has urged the US not to use military force against al-Assad.
Moscow and Beijing have vetoed previous Western efforts to impose UN penalties on al-Assad.
However, China has been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change. It has said a transitional government should be formed.