Syria news roundup: Clamor grows in France for vote

  • Updated: September 1, 2013 - 11:33 PM

Arab league urges action

The Arab League on Sunday urged international action against the Syrian government to deter what it called the “ugly crime” of using chemical weapons. It was a major step toward supporting Western military strikes but short of the explicit endorsement that the United States and some Persian Gulf allies had hoped for.

The League moved beyond the more cautious stance it took just a few days ago, when it asked the U.N. Security Council to overcome its internal differences on the Syrian conflict — an outcome that was extremely unlikely given Russia’s strong support for Syria’s president, Bashar Assad.

This time, the League called for the United Nations and “the international community” at large to exercise their responsibilities under international law “to take the necessary measures” against the Syrian government. But aside from calling for trials of the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks, the resolution — adopted at a meeting in Cairo late Sunday night — did not specify what kind of international measures might be needed or justified.

CLAMOR GROWS IN FRANCE FOR VOTE

French lawmakers seized on President Obama’s decision to seek congressional authorization for a military strike on Syria as an argument for holding their own vote on a potential armed intervention. French President Francois Hollande has said his country would join the United States in punishing Bashar Assad’s regime for allegedly ordering a chemical attack that killed hundreds of people. But opposition parties in France warned Hollande not to make any “hasty decisions” and demanded a vote in the National Assembly, even though Hollande is obliged neither to call nor to heed such a vote. A debate on Syria in the assembly is scheduled for Wednesday.

“Like the president of the United States, who, in the name of democratic principles, has decided to consult the American Congress, the French president must do the same and organize a formal vote of Parliament,” Jean-Louis Borloo, head of the centrist Union of Democrats and Independents, said in a statement.

British may vote again

The British Parliament, which has rejected Western intervention, might take a second look, senior officials in London suggested Sunday. The delay before a possible strike as Obama makes his case to U.S. lawmakers could give their British counterparts time to consider new evidence pointing toward the Syrian government’s culpability in gassing rebel-held neighborhoods in Damascus. “It opens a very important new opportunity,” Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the parliamentary intelligence committee, told the BBC. Rifkind supports force as an option.

pope weighs in for peace

Pope Francis condemned the use of chemical weapons, but he called for a negotiated settlement of the civil war in Syria, and announced he would lead a worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace on Sept. 7. Francis abandoned the traditional religious theme of the weekly papal appearance to crowds in St. Peter’s Square and instead spoke entirely, and with anguish, about Syria. ‘’My heart is deeply wounded by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the [potential] dramatic developments.”

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