Syria crisis: UK and US vow that any military response is 'not about regime change' as Parliament is recalled to vote on intervention

Syrian foreign minister 'utterly and completely' denies Assad regime was behind chemical attack

Any intervention in Syria would not be about the conflict itself but preventing the use of chemical weapons by any regime, David Cameron said today, after he recalled Parliament to vote on a response.

The Prime Minister said there was never 100 per cent certainty or a single piece of irrefutable evidence but said the world had agreed almost a century ago chemical weapons should not be used.

He said: "Let me stress to people, this is not about getting involved in a Middle Eastern war or changing our stance in Syria, or going further into that conflict.

"It's about chemical weapons. Their use is wrong and the world should not stand idly by.

"What we have seen in Syria are appalling scenes of death and suffering because of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime."

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg backed up Cameron's position, saying: "What we're considering is a serious response... What we're not considering is regime change, trying to topple the Assad regime."

The White House also issued a statement which said that any US response is "not about regime change".

Earlier, Mr Cameron announced that Parliament will be recalled on Thursday, where there will be “a clear Govt motion & vote on UK response to chemical weapons attacks."

The Prime Minister's announcement came amid debate as to whether the United Nations would sanction such action. Russia, one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, warned of "catastrophic consequences" for Syria and other regions within the Middle East if military intervention is taken in response to the attacks last week.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin accused the West of behaving towards the Islamic world "like a monkey with a grenade" on Twitter, as countries began discussing the possibility of a military response.

But Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a former UN appeal judge, today told The Times that it was "wrong to maintain that military intervention would be unlawful in the absence of full backing from the UN Security Council".

François Hollande the French President, says France is prepared to take action against those responsible for gassing people in Syria.

Mr Hollande said: “France is ready to punish those who took the heinous decision to gas innocents” in Syria last week.

Now, sources who attended a meeting between envoys and the Syrian National Coalition in Istanbul are claiming Western powers have told the Syrian opposition to expect a strike against President Bashar al-Assad's forces within days.

The US military is ready to act immediately should President Barack Obama order action against Syria over a chemical weapons attack, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.

But Syria accused US Secretary of State John Kerry of lying by claiming there is “undeniable” evidence of a large-scale chemical weapons attack in Syria likely carried out by the regime.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem held a press conference this morning and asserted a dispute between rebels had lead to the second day of the UN inspection team's work being postponed until Wednesday.

Speaking from Damascus, he "completely and utterly" denied claims that the government had used chemical weapons despite the US insisting there is "undeniable" proof of a chemical attack.

During the press conference, he warned that if the country was hit by a military strike, it would defend itself using "all means available", but declined to detail exactly what this would involve.

He added that Syria had two choices - either to surrender or fight back - and it would choose the latter.

Mr Muallem insisted they had not attempted to obstruct weapons inspectors from visiting the site while evidence was still fresh.

“We didn't argue about the site they wanted to go to. We agreed immediately. There's no delay,” he said.

Meanwhile, Britain's armed forces are preparing contingency plans for military action in response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria, Downing Street said today.

The Prime Minister has returned prematurely to Downing Street from a family holiday to prepare for a national security council (NSC) meeting tomorrow which will discuss possible UK involvement in using force against the Assad regime.

Officials said David Cameron will continue talks with international leaders to agree a “proportionate response” that will “deter” Bashar Assad's regime from using toxic agents on the Syrian population.

A spokesperson for No 10 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."

Nick Clegg has given reassurances that Britain will not engage in an “open-ended military” conflict in Syria. The Deputy Prime Minister said today it was right to act because failure to do so would set a “very dangerous precedent”.

Calling last week’s attack in Damascus “undeniable” and a “moral obscenity”, Mr Kerry suggested that the US possessed “additional information” to back up the allegation.

While he indicated that he and President Barack Obama would continue to consult with allied nations on the best response, he left almost no margin for Washington to back away from taking punitive action. His words were also clearly meant to prepare the US public for military action.

“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of  the world. It defies any code of morality,” Mr Kerry said. “The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians… is a moral obscenity.”

There was no further information on what exactly the US may do, though attacks on targeted sites by cruise missiles fired from naval assets in the Mediterranean may be the simplest option.

Assad denies using the weapons and Moscow - a key regime ally which supplies arms to Syria - has backed claims video footage of victims could be opposition propaganda.

Reactions from around the world

America: “We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a trip to Brunei, according to a partial transcript provided by the BBC.

Hagel said the military is: "Ready to go, like that.”

Turkey: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters: “This is a crime against humanity and a crime against humanity should not go unanswered, what needs to be done must be done.” He said that like many states, Turkey blamed Bashar al-Assad's government for the attack. “Today, it is clear the international community is faced with a test.”

Israel: “The state of Israel is prepared for any scenario,” Netanyahu said in a statement after holding security consultations in Tel Aviv.

“We are not a party to this civil war in Syria but if we identify any attempt to attack us we will respond and we will respond forcefully.”

Iran: Iran has since warned against foreign military intervention in Syria after US Secretary of State, John Kerry, last night accused Assad’s Syrian regime of deliberately unleashing chemical weapons on its own citizens in a statement.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi cautioned there would be "perilous consequences" for the region if a military attack is carried out, according to the Guardian. 

Russia: In a statement, foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said: "Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa."

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said on Tuesday the international community must take a “ decisive and serious” stand against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The rejection of the Syrian regime of all serious and earnest Arab efforts .... requires a decisive and serious stand by the international community to stop the humanitarian tragedy of the Syrian people,” Prince Saud was quoted as saying by the state news agency SPA.

France: French President Hollande says France is prepared to take action against those responsible for gassing people in Syria.

Mr Hollande said: “France is ready to punish those who took the heinous decision to gas innocents” in Syria last week.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices