The international community should not ignore the horrifying chemical attacks in Syria but any action must heed the lessons of Iraq, says Midlands Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion.

Syria-chemical-attack-mourningThe MEP is urging Britain and the EU to try and dissuade the USA from launching immediate air strikes before the UN Inspectors have had a chance to finish gathering and collating evidence of what happened.

Phil Bennion MEP said: "Chemical weapons are outlawed by the UN's Chemical Weapons Convention and have been very rarely used since World War I. Like nuclear weapons, they are qualitatively different from other munitions and we should not be content to see this de facto embargo end.

"What happened in Damascus is clearly a war crime involving weapons of mass destruction, which Britain, the EU and the world cannot ignore, but the response must not make a bad situation worse. We must not forget the lessons of Iraq.

"We need clear evidence from the UN and other independent sources of what happened and who ordered it. Ban Ki Moon is right to urge the USA not to carry out air strikes even before the UN inspectors have finished their work.

"The most important priority in my view is for the international community to make clear that whoever is responsible for these despicable attacks will be hunted down and held to account, however long it takes.

"As in Bosnia and other countries where war crimes have been committed, the suspects should be identified, indicted and pursued and made to face justice, using the International Criminal Court.

"We should also be looking at what steps can be taken to encourage an internal solution in Syria, working with Turkey, the Arab League and leaders of the Syrian National Coalition who are committed to a non-sectarian democratic Syria. We also need to work with China and Russia as we did over Libya, where a resolution was agreed over which they abstained but did not oppose.

"There may be a case for limited military action to stop stockpiled chemical weapons being used again on defenceless civilians, but any response of this kind should be legal, based on clear evidence that it will work, be properly authorised and very carefully targeted. This cannot include boots on the ground. The risk of war spreading to Lebanon or other nearby countries is very real and must not be dismissed."