• US seeks coalition on Syria despite British blow

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    SYRIA.20130831jpgDAMASCUS: Washington said on Friday that it is seeking an “international coalition” for possible strikes on Syria over alleged chemical attacks while reserving the right to act alone despite Britain’s parliament rejecting involvement.

    United Nations (UN) arms experts, meanwhile, were to inspect the sites of last week’s suspected poisonous gas attacks for a final day before they depart the war-battered country on Saturday and report their findings to UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

    Faced with an impasse at the UN Security Council and the British parliament’s rejection of any military strikes against the Syrian regime, the United States (US) has been forced to look elsewhere for international partners.

    The British House of Commons voted on Thursday to defy Prime Minister David Cameron’s bid to win support for military action against Syria’s regime in response to its suspected use of chemical weapons against its own people.

    US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the White House respected the British stance and that it was still seeking an “international coalition that will act together” against Syria’s regime.

    “We are continuing to consult with the British as with all of our allies. That consultation includes ways forward together on a response to this chemical weapons attack in Syria,” he said in the Philippines.

    The British rejection also came after the failure of an improbable eleventh-hour effort by British diplomats to win UN backing for action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime at a meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council.

    “It is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly,” Cameron said.

    His government was defeated by just 13 votes in the House of Commons in its bid for a “strong humanitarian response” to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

    That, combined with the UN deadlock, appeared to effectively sound the death knell for the idea of a broad-based Western military coalition, although other American allies might still participate.

    Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said President Barack Obama’s decision-making “will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.

    “He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”

    Earlier, envoys from the permanent Security Council members—Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States—had met at UN headquarters in New York.

    The 45-minute meeting was the second since Britain proposed a draft resolution to permit “all necessary measures” to protect Syrian civilians after suspected chemical weapons attacks in Damascus on August 21.

    But none of the envoys commented as they left.

    AFP

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