Assad regime for prevention against aggression; Pressure on UK govt for second vote
Press Trust of India
Cairo/UNHQ, 2 September
Syria has appealed to the UN to try to “prevent any aggression” against it and said US military action would amount to “support for Al Qaida and its affiliates,” even as President Barack Obama today lobbied with war-weary American lawmakers to convince them for a strike.
“The Syrian government calls on the UN Secretary-General to assume his responsibilities… and to make efforts to prevent any aggression against Syria,” the state-run SANA news agency said, quoting a letter from Syria’s UN representative Bashar al-Jaafari.
The letter also called on the United Nations to help seek a “peaceful political solution to the crisis” in Syria.  Meanwhile, a senior Syrian minister was quoted as saying by BBC that any US military action against Syria would amount to “support for Al Qaida and its affiliates”. “Any attack against Syria is support for Al Qaida and its affiliates, whether Jabat al-Nusra or the State of Islam in Syria and Iraq,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said.
Mr Muqdad, who is considered to be highly influential within President Bashar al-Assad’s government, also warned that possible US intervention would deepen “hatred for the Americans” and destabilise the whole Middle East.
Meanwhile, samples collected by the UN chemical weapons inspection team in Syria will be transferred to laboratories today, according to a spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“The whole process will be done strictly adhering to the highest established standards of verification recognised by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW),” Martin Nesirky said after a telephone call between Mr Ban and Dr Ake Sellstrom, the head of the inspection team.
The USA has claimed 1,429 people were killed in the alleged chemical attacks carried out by the Assad regime in a Damascus suburb on 21 August.
Syria, however, has denied US charges, saying jihadists fighting with the rebels used the deadly weapons in an effort to turn global sentiments against it.
Mr Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough have made individual calls to members of Congress, a senior White House official said.
The aggressive lobbying comes after a classified briefing was held on Capitol Hill late yesterday.
In a surprise move, Mr Obama has sought congressional approval for limited military intervention in Syria to win more support for his plan to punish the Assad regime for the attack.
Obama administration is facing resistance from lawmakers even before Congress officially comes back to Washington on 9 September.
Resistance against the imminent US strike is also mounting at the international front with veto-wielding Russia today saying that it was totally unconvinced by the evidence presented by the USA and its allies.
“What we were shown before and most recently by our American partners as well the British and the French absolutely does not convince us,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. Mr Lavrov said that there were “many doubts” about images of the alleged attack posted on the Internet.
Chinese foreign affairs spokesman Hong Lei said: “We are gravely concerned that some country may take unilateral military actions.”
France may also hand over evidence to lawmakers proving Assad regime’s hand in the chemical weapons attack in Syria, media reports said.
Syrian media yesterday reacted sharply to Obama’s decision of seeking Congressional approval for a strike on Syria. “Whether the Congress lights the red or green light for an aggression, and whether the prospects of war have been enhanced or faded, President Obama has announced yesterday, by prevaricating or hinting, the start of the historic American retreat,” state-run Al-Thawra daily said in a sarcastic tone.
When asked to comment on the Syrian media statement that seeking congressional authorisation for military action against Syria is “the start of the historic American retreat”, US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday replied: “I don’t believe so at all.”
Mr Kerry said Mr Obama has the right to take action against Syria, with or without Congress’ approval. But he stopped short of saying Obama was committed to such a course even if lawmakers refuse to authorise force.

UK under pressure: The UK government is under growing pressure to consider a second parliamentary vote on military action against Syria. But Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, ruled out a re-vote on the issue after the British Parliament had defeated a government motion for military action last week. “We did it last Thursday, the answer was very clear, it was not the answer I was hoping for,” he said here today. Earlier, London Mayor Boris Johnson said a new motion could be debated if “better evidence” of chemical attacks emerges.

Russia sends spy ship: Russia has sent a reconnaissance vessel from its Black Sea fleet to the coast off Syria, a report said today, as Moscow anxiously watches Western plans for military action against the Damascus regime, a report said today.