Syria has appealed to the United Nations to try to “prevent any aggression” against it and said US military action would amount to “support for al-Qaeda 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 by BBC as saying that any US military action against Syria would amount to “support for al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”
“Any attack against Syria is support for al-Qaeda 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.
The US has claimed that 1,429 people were killed in the alleged chemical attacks carried out by the Assad regime in a Damascus suburb on August 21.
Syria, however, has denied the 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 on Sunday.
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.
The Obama administration is facing resistance from law-makers even before Congress officially comes back to Washington on September 9.
Resistance against the imminent US strike is also mounting at the international front with veto-wielding Russia on Monday saying that it was totally unconvinced by the evidence presented by the US 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.”
“We believe that any action taken by the international community should abide by the purposes and principles of the UN charter as well as basic norms governing international relations, so as to avoid complicating the Syrian issue and bringing more disasters to the Middle East region,” Mr. Hong said.
France may also hand over evidence to lawmakers proving the Assad regime’s hand in the chemical weapons attack in Syria, media reports said.
The Syrian media on Sunday reacted sharply to Mr. 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 on Sunday 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 Mr. Obama was committed to such a course even if lawmakers refuse to authorise force.
Earlier, the embattled Assad regime said it has its “finger on the trigger” over an imminent military strike from the US and its Western allies.
“The Syrian army is fully ready, its finger on the trigger to face any challenge or scenario that they want to carry out,” Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said on Sunday.
“That is in the hands of the Congress of the United States. The President has made his decision. The President wants to stand up and make certain that we uphold the international norm, that we do not grant impunity to a ruthless dictator to gas his own people,” he said in response to a question.
Meanwhile, a top UN official said on Monday that seven million Syrians, or nearly one-third of the population, have been displaced by the country’s civil war, but international aid to them has been a “drop in the sea” of humanitarian need.
Keywords: Syria conflict, Syria unrest, United Nations, UN Secretary General, UNSC, chemical weapons, Bashar Assad regime, Syrian rebels, Syria chemical weapons attack, UN chemical attack probe, President Barack Obama, Congressional approval, US military action