Syria attack on hold amid UN debate on arms

LEADING world powers were last night debating a Russian proposal to neutralise Syria’s chemical weapons, as the prospect of imminent strikes on the Middle Eastern country retreated.

The five permanent members of the UN security council met in New York to discuss a Russian proposal that would see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad voluntarily give up his arms.

The US, UK and France want any deal on handing over weapons to be backed up with the threat of military action if agreements are not met. But they need the agreement of Russia and China, the other members of the body, who prefer a non-binding solution.

On Tuesday night President Barack Obama addressed the US nation and said he would ask congress to delay a vote on tactical strikes against Syrian targets which he had been expected to lose.

Just a fortnight ago it had been expected the UK, France and the US would combine to launch swift attacks on Syria following the alleged use of chemical weapons by al-Assad’s regime. But the British parliament’s rejection of the plan – partly due to the opposition of Labour leader Ed Miliband – fatally damaged this unified front.