PRIME Minister David Cameron was under mounting pressure to recall parliament yesterday, as Britain and the United States moved closer to the prospect of military intervention in Syria.
Mr Cameron is breaking off from his holiday to continue a round of calls with world leaders amid mounting speculation the UK might join international military action.
He will chair a meeting of the National Security Council today to discuss potential responses to the suspected chemical attack that killed hundreds of people, but Foreign Secretary William Hague declined to rule out air strikes within days. It comes as Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, issued a stark warning to the US that it could “expect to fail” if it decided military action was the most appropriate response.
Downing Street said a decision would be made today over whether to recall parliament amid increasingly vocal demands from MPs on all sides to be given the chance to pre-approve any UK involvement in military action.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: “It is inconceivable that any external military action should be taken in Syria before the UN inspectors have completed their investigation and produced a report. Equally, if the Prime Minister were to allow UK participation in any such action, he would have to have a very good reason to do so before parliament has met, discussed and voted on the issue.”
Mr Hague said force may be the only remaining option after the failure of diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Syria, insisting it could be deployed legally even without Russian support at the UN Security Council.
He said Britain, the US, France and other countries agreed on the need for a “strong response”. Pressed on whether that could mean military action as early as this week, he said: “I am not going to rule anything in or out. I am not going to speculate about that in public.”
Mr Hague said diplomatic efforts to resolve the civil war in Syria had failed – and suggested military action might now be the only alternative to allowing chemical weapon use with impunity. “This may be the choice. This is why we have called for a strong response.”
Any intervention would be “in accordance with international law and will be based on legal advice to the National Security Council and to the Cabinet”, he stressed.
US defence secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday said the Obama administration was “considering all options”, adding: “If there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of a legal justification.”
However, in an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia, Mr Assad reiterated his claim that rebels opposed to his regime were using chemical weapons.
He said: “The statements made by politicians in the US, the West and in other countries are an insult to common sense and disregard the opinion of the people. This is nonsense: to blame first, and only then collect evidence. ”
Asked what the US would face if it launched military strikes against Syria, or even invaded the country, Mr Assad added: “The US can expect to fail, just like in all previous wars it has waged, from Vietnam to the present day. America has taken part in numerous wars, but has never been able to achieve the political objectives for which it began these wars. Great powers can start wars, but can they win?”