Government spokesman rejects criticism over Syria action


Government spokesman Lord Wallace of Saltaire has denied that the situation in Syria is "Iraq.2" during conclusion of a recall of the House of Lords.

Speaking during the debate on 29 August 2013, he rejected accusations from peers that the government had failed to engage in diplomatic efforts to resolve the growing tensions in Syria.

He noted the "concerned and sober" mood of the House, but defended the government's position to call for a response from the international community that may require military action.

The government has published an assessment by the British intelligence services which says it is "highly likely" the Syrian regime was behind last week's chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.

Lord Wallace insisted that the scale of the attack was "beyond the capabilities of the Syrian opposition".

The prime minister has agreed to hold a second vote in the Commons after Labour said UN weapons inspectors must be given time to present their findings before any military intervention.

The Conservative peer Lord Tebbit accused the government of displaying "a lack of intellectual rigour" by appearing to claim "certainty" that the Assad regime had carried out the chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus.

He warned that action to overthrow the Syrian government would "no more bring peace to Syria than the fall of Mubarak brought to Egypt".

Unlike in the Commons, the House of Lords held a general debate on potential military action in Syria, rather than on a specific motion.

The Syrian government has denied it is behind the suspected chemical attack in which hundreds of people are reported to have died, blaming opposition forces.

US President Barack Obama has said he has not yet decided on a plan for action against Syria, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for patience, insisting he will receive a report on Saturday from weapons inspectors investigating the alleged attack.

At the end of the debate it was announced that MPs had voted to reject the government motion on Syria, and Baroness Royall urged the government to have a further recall of the House of Lords if the prime minister were to make a further statement before the Lords returns in the Autumn.

Watch part one of the debate here.

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