POLITICS

Tony Blair Continues To Push For 'Punitive Attack' Against Syria

25/09/2013 07:45 BST | Updated 25/09/2013 08:04 BST
AP
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks about the late former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Lafayette College on Monday, April 8, 2013, in Easton, Pa. Thatcher's former spokesman, Tim Bell, said the former prime minister, known to both friends and foes as "The Iron Lady," died of a stroke Monday April 8, 2013. She was 87. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Action should be taken against the regime of Syrian president Bashar Assad if Syria does not give up its chemical weapons,Tony Blair has warned.

The former prime minister said all that mattered was the final outcome, telling Morgan: "It's the results that count. I'm not particularly concerned if we do it elegantly or inelegantly."

Mr Blair also stressed the importance of the US and the UK sticking together in its response to the crisis.

Speaking on CNN show Piers Morgan Tonight, he said: "If we manage to get the Syrians to give this up in a verifiable process, fine.

"But if that doesn't happen, and that's why the (United Nations) Security Council resolution is also important, we have got to be prepared to enforce the will of the international community."

Asked if he would have been in favour of military intervention if he were still prime minister, Mr Blair replied: "I would have certainly pushed very hard to be with America as an ally at this moment. It's very important that the UK and the US stick together.

"The bottom line, again, is that you can't have the use of chemical weapons happening without some reaction."

Speaking on MSNBC on Tuesday morning, the former prime minister refused to say that Ed Miliband made a mistake in voting against British military intervention, but said he would have voted with David Cameron and the coalition, despite the subsequent advancement of diplomatic efforts and the Russian-brokered deal to remove Assad's chemical arsenal.

On the British vote, Blair said: "I was where you’d expect me to be; I think our alliance with the US is vital and frankly I thought it was important that we support President Obama."

Moves towards US and UK strikes against Syria were derailed after Parliament voted against the use of military force, a vote effectively blocked by Labour leader Ed Miliband. Subsequent to the parliamentary vote, President Obama looked to Congress to gain support for the use of strikes, manoeuvrings unlikely to have happened had the British vote been reversed.

When asked if he thought Obama should have launched the strikes, Blair demurred: "I think what the President has done is perfectly right."

Up to 1,400 people are believed to have been killed in a chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held Damascus suburb last month.

The attack is said to have been carried out by Assad's regime, as part of a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people.

The ex-prime minister, who gave the interview yesterday while on a visit to New York, said: "It's right, given the offer to yield up the chemical weapons that Syria has, if they're prepared to do that and it's done on a verifiable basis, then that is plainly better for the world's security than to do a punitive attack that would still leave us with chemical weapons."

Meanwhile, the issue of Syria was also discussed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg when he met American vice president Joe Biden in Washington DC yesterday. The pair spoke about "a wide range of issues", a Cabinet Office spokesman said.

He added: "They discussed the continuing crisis in Syria, the need for strong, co-ordinated action by the international community to address chemical weapons stockpiles, including through a UN resolution, and the need to work to restart the political process.

"On Iran, the vice president and the Deputy Prime Minister underlined the necessity of Iran responding to the international community's concerns about its nuclear programme, but welcomed recent signals from President Rouhani that he was keen and willing to engage in substantive talks on nuclear issues and hoped progress would be made during UNGA (UN General Assembly)."