China urges no U.N. action on Syria before probe completed

BEIJING Fri Aug 30, 2013 7:24am IST

Local activists and Syrian-American supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hold up his image during an anti-war rally in front of a U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square, New York August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Local activists and Syrian-American supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hold up his image during an anti-war rally in front of a U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square, New York August 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Adrees Latif

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BEIJING (Reuters) - There should be no rush to force U.N. Security Council action against Syria until a probe by U.N. experts into suspected chemical weapons use is complete, and unilateral action will not help matters, China's foreign minister said.

In remarks reported by the official Xinhua news agency on Friday, Wang Yi told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a telephone call that China fully supported an independent and objective inspection free from outside pressure.

"Before the investigation finds out what really happened, all parties should avoid prejudging the results, and certainly ought not to forcefully push for the Security Council to take action," Wang told Ban, Xinhua reported.

Military force would not help resolve the Syrian issue and only worsen turmoil in the Middle East, Wang said.

"A political resolution is still the only way out," he said.

Wang said in separate conversations with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby that whoever used chemical weapons had to accept responsibility.

Calm and restraint were also needed, Wang said.

"Taking unilateral action will make it hard to resolve the issue, and its legality will attract doubts," he said.

"All sides should be urging peace and pushing for talks."

U.S. officials acknowledged on Thursday they lacked conclusive evidence that Assad personally ordered last week's poison gas attack, and some allies have warned that military action without U.N. Security Council authorisation risks making the situation worse.

On Thursday, the British parliament voted against joining any military action against Syria, dealing a setback to U.S.-led efforts to punish Damascus.

Moscow and Beijing have both vetoed previous Western efforts to impose U.N. penalties on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

China also has been keen to show it is not taking sides and has urged the Syrian government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change. It has said a transitional government should be formed.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Jonathan Standing and Pete Sweeney in Shanghai; Editing by Paul Tait)

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