Cameron to recall MPs amid heightening tensions over Syria

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  MPs will be recalled to the House of Commons on Thursday in order to debate the Syrian conflict and what the UK’s response should be following reports of a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. It has also been announced that UK forces are drawing up contingency plans for possible military action.

No final decision on military intervention has been taken yet but crisis talks will be held on Thursday and the PM’s spokesman said this morning that it is “clear that chemical weapons were used and it’s the Syrian Government who’s responsible.”

David Cameron announced that “any response will be proportionate, lawful and carried out in agreement with international allies”.  It is, however, unlikely that there will be backing from the UN Security Council as China and Russia have stepped up warnings against military action.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander urged caution saying, “I’m not prepared to write the government a blank cheque this morning. They haven’t been clear as to the military objective that they are aiming for, they aren’t clear on the basis of the evidence that they themselves have seen and they aren’t yet clear as to the legal basis on which any action would be conducted.”

The legal basis for action is, as yet, unclear, Michael Caplan QC, a leading international lawyer, talking to BBC News 24 said that  “Without a UN mandate I think that it will be difficult, we’ll have to justify it, it will be controversial. Can we really say, despite how dreadful the pictures are that there is going to be an imminent humanitarian catastrophe.”

This morning the Syrian Foreign Minister denied that the Syrian Government were responsible for the chemical attack. But US Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, speaking to John Sopel of the BBC said that, “It seems to me that it is clearer and clearer that the Government of Syria was responsible”. He added that US forces were “ready to go” if the order comes.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has used his column in the Times newspaper to call for action on Syria saying “The hand-wringing has to stop. We must act.”

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted any intervention would not involve “boots on the ground” and also pledged that any invasion would be legal.

He said: “The use of chemical weapons on men, women and children is a flagrant abuse of international law and if we stand idly by we set a very dangerous precedent.”

However opposition to military intervention is now growing and Iran has warned that any such action would engulf the region.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Araqchi, indicated it was ready to step in and back Assad.

“We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region,” Araqchi told a news conference. “These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region.”

UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon described the use of chemical weapons as an outrageous crime and warned that if proven to be the case, then the UN: “… cannot allow impunity in what appears to be a grave crime against humanity,”