Syria crisis: UK armed forces 'making contingency plans' for military action

No 10 says Britain and US will not be bound by findings of UN weapons team investigating chemical attack

Britain’s armed forces are making contingency plans for a possible military strike against the Assad regime to deter the “abhorrent” use of chemical weapons, Downing Street has confirmed.

Amid expectations that David Cameron will announce that parliament is to be recalled later this week to discuss the Syrian crisis, No 10 indicated that Britain and the US would not be bound by the findings of the UN weapons team which inspected the Damascus suburb hit in the chemical attack.

In a sign of the increased pace of activity, the prime minister’s spokesman said plans for a military strike were under way. The spokesman said: “I am not going to get into details on any specifics. All I would say is it is reasonable to assume that our armed forces are making contingency plans.”

Downing Street said any military action would be designed to act as a deterrent against the future use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and by others around the world. The prime minister’s spokesman said any action would be fully in line with international law.

“Any use of chemical weapons is completely abhorrent and against all international law,” the spokesman said. “In terms of end game, this is about looking at how we deter the use of chemical weapons because this is something that is completely abhorrent and against all international law. This is about deterring the use of chemical weapons.”

Downing Street is, along with the US and France, waiting to see the findings of the UN inspectors who saw the sites of alleged chemical attacks in the east Ghouta region of Damascus on Monday. But the allies would not be bound by the UN findings.

The No 10 spokesman said: “We will see what the UN produces. But, as the foreign secretary has said, it is possible that given the regime prevented that UN team from going in on day one, the evidence from the site could well have been tampered with, moved or degraded.”

The spokesman said this would be considered alongside the evidence that had been amassed by Britain, the US and France. Asked whether the response to the chemical attack would depend on the UN findings, the spokesman said: “Yes. What I am saying is there is a process that is going on. We are in discussions with our international partners looking at the evidence that is available.”

The remarks by No 10 indicate that military action could take place without UN evidence that the Assad regime was responsible for the attack. Britain has also made clear that it is prepared to act without a UN security council resolution because this would be vetoed by Russia. William Hague made clear on Monday that action would be allowed under international law which bans the use of chemical weapons.

It is expected that Cameron will announce on Tuesday that parliament will be recalled later this week. The spokesman said: “The prime minister’s …read more  

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