LONDON - Britain's government says the legal conditions have been
clearly met for taking action against Syria for allegedly launching a
chemical attack against its people.
However, the opposition Labor
Party has said it wants to see "compelling evidence" of the Syrian
regime's guilt before siding with Prime Minister David Cameron's
governing coalition in a parliamentary vote.
Labor Party leader Ed
Miliband said Thursday he was "determined we learn the lessons of the
past, including (on) Iraq," where much ballyhooed evidence of weapons of
mass destruction was subsequently deemed to be false.
potential roadblock to war comes as Britain's Joint Intelligence
Committee concluded that it is "highly likely" that Syrian President
Bashar Assad's regime was responsible for the alleged chemical attack on
Aug. 21 that killed hundreds. A document released by the JLC forms the
British government's first published evidence indicating culpability for the attack.
Another separate document
released by Downing Street on Thursday that sets out the government's
legal position says, "military intervention to strike specific targets"
would be "legally justifiable."
The independent Doctors Without
Borders group says at least 355 people died in the attack. Syria's
regime has denied using chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone and was quoted by Iranian state TV
as saying that "military action will bring great costs for the region"
and "it is necessary to apply all efforts to prevent it."
to state TV, Rouhani said both Iran and Russia would work in "extensive
cooperation" to prevent any military action against Syria. The Iranian
president also called such military action an "open violation" of
Britain can go to war without the
express consent or backing of Parliament but in the wake of the Iraq War
in 2003 there have been calls for the government to always seek the
approval of Parliament.
On Wednesday, Cameron reversed an earlier
to decision to hold a single formal parliamentary vote that would
specifically seek authorization for British action. He bowed to
opposition demands that a second vote by Parliament be required, but
only after U.N. investigators conclude their findings.
Street said that the back down reflected the government's "desire to
proceed on a consensual basis," but the move followed threats by the
Labor Party not to support a possible strike.
Labor lawmakers are insisting that the U.N. inspectors be given more time to deliver their report to the U.N. Security Council.
a British draft resolution authorizing "necessary measures" to protect
Syrian civilians was delivered to the Security Council in New York on
Wednesday, where it was discussed. Russia has said it will use its veto
power on any resolution.
Members of Parliament, called back from their summer break, began debating the issue Thursday.
of Thursday's first parliamentary vote - due to take place around 10
p.m. local time/5 p.m. ET and being described as a vote of "principle" -
the British government received a letter from the Syrian government
seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis.
"We implore you to communicate through civilized dialogue rather than
a monologue of blood and fire," the letter said, according to the BBC,
which obtained a copy. The open letter was sent by the Syrian parliament
speaker who also invited British MPs to send a delegation to the
The U.N. inspection team will be leaving Syria by
Saturday as its two-week mandate comes to an end, Secretary-General Ban
Ki Moon said Thursday. Ban, peaking in Vienna, said all opinions should
be heard before anyone makes decisions on how to react to the alleged
President Obama said Wednesday he has concluded the
Syrian regime is behind the attack. However, it's not clear if Western
powers will wait for the U.N. experts' findings before launching a
possible punitive military strike.
A yet-to-be-released report by
the Office of the Director for National Intelligence outlining evidence
against Syria includes a few key caveats - including acknowledging that
the U.S. intelligence community no longer has the certainty it did six
months ago of where the regime's chemical weapons are stored, nor does
it have proof Assad ordered chemical weapons use, according to two
intelligence officials and two more U.S. officials, the Associated Press
The officials, who spoke to the AP on
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the
intelligence report publicly, said intelligence linking Assad or his
inner circle to the alleged chemical weapons attack is no "slam dunk."