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Hague Urged to Publish U.K. Legal Advice on Syria Strikes

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague should make public any legal advice he has had on possible military strikes against Syria, the chairman of a cross-party panel of lawmakers said.

Richard Ottaway, the chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to Hague yesterday expressing concern over rhetoric that he said points toward western intervention in the Syrian civil war. The letter was distributed to reporters in London today.

“Developments and statements on Syria have caused the committee to become increasingly concerned that momentum is building toward some form of Western-backed military action and that the government is considering becoming involved in such action imminently, without consulting Parliament,” Ottaway wrote. “The background and circumstances of the conflict are very different to those that were present before the 2011 coalition intervention in Libya, which had the backing of a UN resolution.”

Almost 44,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Prime Minister David Cameron and fellow European Union leaders agreed last week to look at all options to help Syria’s opposition remove the “illegitimate regime” of President Bashar al-Assad. EU foreign ministers will discuss revising an arms embargo next month to allow for possible military support.

That move, along with U.K. recognition of the opposition and Hague’s warning that the Syrian regime should not “miscalculate how we would react to any use of chemical or biological weapons” were cited by Ottaway as examples of a drift to military action.

“We strongly condemn the Assad regime for its unacceptable repression of its own people,” Ottaway wrote. “However, grave concerns have been expressed by some members of the house about the value, legitimacy and legality of Western intervention in Syria.”

Hague should follow the precedent of the action in Libya and publish a summary of his legal advice, and there should be a debate in Parliament before the U.K. become involved in military action, Ottaway said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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