Clegg: act in Syria or set a ‘dangerous precedent’

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
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Military intervention against President Assad’s regime in Syria is being backed by Sheffield MPs - but with caution.

MPs were last night recalled to Parliament for a debate about whether to attack targets in the Middle Eastern country after Assad’s forces are believed to have used chemical weapons against their own people.

Hundreds of people have died in suspected chemical weapons attacks in the capital, Damascus.

Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “Murder of innocent men, women and children through the use of chemical weapons is a repugnant crime and a flagrant abuse of international law.

“If we stand idly by, we set a very dangerous precedent indeed, where brutal dictators and brutal rulers will feel they can get away with using chemical weapons on a larger and larger scale in the future.

“These are weapons that were used on a large scale in the First World War and banned back in the 1920s. So what we’re considering is a serious response to that.

“What we are not considering is regime change, trying to topple the Assad regime, trying to settle the civil war in Syria one way or another.

“We are not considering an open-ended military intervention with boots on the ground like we saw in Iraq.

“What is being considered are measures which are legal, which are proportionate and which are specific to discouraging and sending out a clear signal that use of chemical weapons in this day and age is simply intolerable.”

Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough Labour MP David Blunkett, who supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, advised ‘extreme caution’.

He said: “There is a total lack of clarity about what the objective will be, how we will deal with the aftermath and whom we are helping - some of the rebels have links to Al Qaeda.

“Given that everyone says we are not going to put crews on the ground, we will be using missiles, presumably to take out chemical weapons sites presuming we know where they are.

“We should learn the lessons of Iraq and the main one I take is that we should always know what the next step will be before we take the first one.”

Mr Blunkett said the Labour Party’s position overall was ‘totally unclear’ on whether to support attacks.