The opposition British Labour Party insisted any approval in the British parliament for military action needed “compelling evidence” that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21.
A non-binding vote will now be held on Thursday, with another to follow after UN weapons inspectors have reported on their findings from Syria to the UN Security Council. On Wednesday, Britain tabled a draft UN resolution to seek approval for military action in Syria, which was opposed by Russia and China.
Elsewhere, the US and France continued to emphasize the need for a response to what they said was the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons.
US president Barack Obama told the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) that he was not interested in an “open-ended conflict” in Syria. He said the use of chemical weapons, however, should have “international consequences.”
On Thursday, French president François Hollande said that a political solution was needed in Syria, but that this could only happen if the international community could stop chemical attacks occurring, and with better support for the opposition.
Meanwhile, UN special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said on Wednesday that any US military action in Syria would need to be approved by the United Nations Security Council. Moscow warned of “catastrophic consequences” for any such intervention.
In other developments, a senior Lebanese security official speaking on condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the number of refugees arriving in Lebanon has almost reached its highest levels since the start of the conflict.”
UNHCR spokeswoman Dana Suleiman told Asharq Al-Awsat that the commission “has put in place an emergency plan to respond to the arrival of large numbers of refugees if that happens.” She added that “the biggest challenge the commission faces is finding the funds needed for the requirements of the plan.”
Amid fears of the arrival of large numbers of Syrian refugees in Lebanon as a result of an expected attack on Syria, Lebanese president Michel Suleiman chaired a meeting of ministers, also attended by caretaker prime minister Najib Niqati. At the meeting, the ministers discussed the measures needed to be taken to deal with the possible flood of refugees into Lebanon.
Suleiman called on the political parties in Lebanon to remain impartial and put Lebanese interests first, and reminded them of “Lebanon’s position, which calls for finding political solutions for the Syrian crisis, away from outside intervention.”
In another development, the Iranian Fars news agency said Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad held a meeting with Syrian military commanders following the speculation about a possible US military strike. The agency quoted Assad as saying that “this is a historic confrontation from which we will come out victorious.”