Syria asks UN to stop ‘any aggression’
Appeal made to world body’s chief as Russia says it is unconvinced by chemical-attack evidence presented by US.
Syria has asked the UN to prevent “any aggression” against Syria following a call over the weekend by US President Barack Obama for punitive strikes against the Syrian military for last month’s alleged chemical-weapons attack.
US military action will be put to a vote in Congress, which ends its summer recess on September 9, giving Syrian President Bashar al-Assad time to prepare the ground for any assault and try to rally international support against the use of force.
The Syrian state news agency SANA said on Monday that Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s envoy to the UN, in a letter to Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, and Maria Cristina Perceval, the Security Council president, called on “the UN secretary-general to shoulder his responsibilities for preventing any aggression on Syria and pushing forward reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria”.
He called on the Security Council to “maintain its role as a safety valve to prevent the absurd use of force out of the frame of international legitimacy”.
Jaafari said the US should “play its role, as a peace sponsor and as a partner to Russia in the preparation for
the international conference on Syria and not as a state that uses force against whoever opposes its policies”.
Syria denies using chemical weapons and accuses rebel groups, who have been fighting for more than two years to topple Assad, of using the banned weapons.
At least 100,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, which started in March 2011 with protests against four decades of Assad family rule.
Obama said on Saturday that the US had presented a “powerful case” linking Assad’s government to the attack in Ghouta on August 21, and that the US military was prepared to launch a “limited” strike.
The US says more than 1,400 people, many of them children, were killed in what is being regarded as the world’s worst use of chemical arms since Iraq’s Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in 1988.
John Kerry, US secretary of state, said on Sunday that tests showed sarin nerve gas was fired on rebel-held areas.
Jaafari said Kerry had “adopted old stories fabricated by terrorists” based on fake photos from the internet.
For his part, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said on Monday that Russia was unconvinced by the evidence presented by the US and its allies.
Separately, the Russian news service Interfax said the government was sending a reconnaissance ship to the coast off Syria.
On the other hand, Turkey’s prime minister said any international action must be aimed at bringing an end to Assad’s rule.
“I would like to emphasise that temporary measures in Syria will not be enough. A limited scope, by aiming at local targets and avoiding an ultimate solution, would worsen the conditions in the country,” he said.
“Unless efficient steps are taken, the Syrian regime would be encouraged to commit new massacres and inflict humanitarian tragedies.
“We are urging our allies to avoid such temporary steps taken to save the day, and we tell them this could cause grave problems.”
Al Jazeera’s Omar Al-Saleh, reporting from Antakya, near the Syrian border, said that it was not as yet clear any country will carry out attack on their own.
“As for Turkey, they have said that they would be willing to join a US-led military intervention,” he said.
US website hacked
In a related development, a website apparently belonging to the US Marine Corps was hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army.
Images of masked soldiers appeared on the home page of the force’s recruiting website www.marines.com.
The message calls on the soldiers to defy President Barack Obama’s plans to strike Syria. Though they are not expected to take part in operations in Syria, 300 soldiers from the Marine Corps are on board the USS San Antonio in the Mediterranean sea.
In another Syria-related development, the British government is facing questions over reports that a company was given permission to export chemicals to the country that could be used to make weapons.
The report says licences for two chemicals that can be used to make the nerve agent sarin, were given to a UK company in January last year.
The disclosure came as a French government source told the AFP news agency that officials would soon declassify secret defence documents detailing Syria’s chemical arsenal.
The French Journal du Dimanche newspaper said Syria has 1,000 tonnes of chemicals including sarin and mustard gas, and was developing a powerful agent that was far more toxic than sarin.