The United Nations has warned Barack Obama that the US should not carry out "punitive" strikes against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons. Reported by the Associated Press, Ban Ki Moon said an attack to punish Syria would "unleash more turmoil", adding that the UN Charter made illegal any military action unless in self defense or approved by the Security Council.
The announcement will be a blow for the White House, who are seeking to gain congressional approval for a strike. Speaking during a meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday, Obama described the proposed strike as "proportional and limited".
"This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan,” he assured. “The military plan that has been developed by our joint chiefs, and that I believe is appropriate, is proportional, it is limited, it does not involve boots on the ground.
"This is a limited proportional step that will send a clear message not only to the Assad regime but also to other countries that may be interested in testing some of these international norms that there are consequences.
"It gives us the opportunity to degrade Assad's capabilities when it comes to chemical weapons. It also fits into a broader strategy that we have to make sure that we can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure required so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability, not only to Syria but to the region."
Ban Ki Moon has warned the Washington not to attack Syria
On Tuesday afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner, a man so often a hindrance to the President, said that he would back the administration’s plans to attack the Syrian regime.
"I'm going to support the president's call for action. I believe my colleagues should support this call for action," Boehner said following a meeting with the president and members of congress. "We have enemies around the world that need to understand that we're not going to tolerate this type of behaviour."
Less surprising was the support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Following the meeting, she said: "President Obama did not draw the red line… humanity drew it decades ago."
On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande said that he was awaiting the result of the congressional vote, adding that France would not act against the Syrian regime alone. The French parliament is scheduled to debate the Syrian conflict on Wednesday however no vote is expected.
Earlier, David Cameron confirmed that there would be no second vote in Parliament on the proposed use of British forces against the Syrian regime. The Prime Minister suffered a humiliating defeat in a Commons vote last week, effectively ending the possibility of British military involvement. However, Cameron has pledged to "lead the world" in ensuring humanitarian aid gets through to the people of Syria.
John Boehner urged Congress to support the President
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William Hague announced that the president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition will visit London on Thursday to discuss humanitarian efforts as well as the drive to secure a peace conference in Geneva. He played down suggestions in the US that Obama was planning a wider-than-expected intervention aimed at aiding opposition forces fighting the Assad regime as well as deterring the use of chemical weapons.
"I don't believe that to be the intention of the United States," Hague told the Commons. "President Obama is very clear that any action proposed by the United States would be to deter the further use of chemical weapons and I think we can take him at his word on that."
Tensions in the region were heightened further by Russian reports that two "ballistic objects" had been fired in the eastern Mediterranean in the early hours of this morning. Israel later confirmed that it had conducted a test of its US-funded Ankor missile system.
Obama's decision to put the question of US military action to a vote in Congress has prompted pressure on Cameron to ask MPs to reconsider last week's vote.
Conservative mayor of London Boris Johnson told LBC 97.3 radio that it was "appropriate" to look at any new evidence and the detail of US plans. If they were coherent, limited and would deliver a "plausible outcome", he said it would be "reasonable in those circumstances for Parliament to think again".
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond appeared on Monday to hold the door open for a second vote in the case of "very significant" changes on the ground. But following a discussion of Syria in Cabinet this morning, Downing Street denied any suggestion of a split within the Government.
Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime MInister would be a "very full participant" in debates on Syria on the margins of the G20 summit. "It is about trying to ensure that there is as robust as possible an international response to the use of chemical weapons," the spokesman said. "It is also about seeking to continue the diplomatic process whose objective is a political transition.
"It is no secret that a number of countries don't share our approach in a number of key respects, but that doesn't mean that we don't keep working with them and others to try to bring about what I have described."
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said the UK should press Russia to include Syria on the G20 agenda, ensure the UK special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was invited and seek the creation of a Syria Contact Group to include Iran and Saudi Arabia.
"The scale of the suffering in Syria demands a more active diplomatic engagement ahead of this week's summit," said Alexander.
More than 97% of Syria's refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region, which urgently need massive international support to help them deal with the crisis, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
With an average of almost 5,000 Syrians fleeing into neighbouring countries every day, the need to increase significantly humanitarian aid and development support to host communities has reached a critical stage.
Ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey will hold a meeting with UNHCR in Geneva to accelerate international support.
Guterres said: "Syria has become the great tragedy of this century - a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.
"The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees."
Aid agencies said the humanitarian response to the crisis was "stretched to the limit" and "dangerously underfunded".
The Prime Minister's spokesman played down the prospect of holding a Commons vote on arming the rebels - but stopped short of ruling it out.
"No decision has been made to do that (arm the rebels)," he said. "That has been the position for a very long time."
The spokesman said last week's debate and vote "was very specifically a response to the August 21 chemical weapons attack".
The possibility of arming the rebels was not raised in Cabinet this morning, he added.
Syrian National Coalition president Ahmed Asi Al Jarba will arrive in the UK with a senior delegation tomorrow and hold talks with Hague on September 5, said the Foreign Office. He is also due to meet International Development Minister Alan Duncan and Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Richard Ottaway as well as addressing MPs at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The UK recognises the SNC as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people. A Foreign Office spokesman said: "This visit comes at a critical time. It is an opportunity to underline our support for the Coalition as we seek a negotiated political solution.
"This visit will also allow the National Coalition to outline their plans for delivery on the ground in areas under their control. We are committed to supporting this and will discuss with the Coalition how we might step up our practical support."