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Updated: Wed, 28 Aug 2013 16:30:20 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Syrian regime must face consequences, John Baird says



Syrian regime must face consequences, John Baird says

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the world must respond to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime or risk the weapons being used again in Syria and in future conflicts.

Baird said he agreed with comments by British Foreign Secretary William Hague that the world needs to respond.

"In 2013, that someone could use these type of weapons of mass destruction with impunity would not only set a very bad precedent for the ongoing conflict in Syria, but also, frankly, would give a green light to any dictator to use these weapons of mass destruction against their own people in future conflicts," Baird said in Montreal.

"We are of one mind that these weapons have been used and that a firm international response is needed."

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Baird made the remark after meeting with George Sabra, the head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), this afternoon, amid intensifying talk of possible military strikes on Syria.

Baird said it's not clear yet how Canada could contribute to a possible military intervention.

"There are discussions going on as to the exact nature of what our response could be. I think some have speculated in the media and elsewhere that it could involve cruise missiles or armed drones, neither of which Canada has," he said.

"We'll let decisions be made before we know whether we have even the capacity to contribute militarily."

Baird briefed opposition colleagues

Andrew MacDougall, director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, repeated Tuesday that it is "premature to discuss roles" that Canada could play in an eventual military operation.

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Baird said earlier this week that Canada is "incredibly outraged" by a chemical weapons attack on Syrians last week. He has said the idea that the attack could have been perpetrated by rebel fighters is "patently ridiculous," although he said the only way to end the bloodshed is through a political solution.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Baird confirmed that the cabinet minister has spoken to NDP and Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

Sabra, whose coalition is based in Istanbul, Turkey, has been meeting members of the Syrian-Canadian community in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto since late last week.

Sabra and Baird, however, don't appear to agree on how to end the bloodshed in the war-torn country.

In contrast to Baird, Sabra said he no longer believes a political solution is possible, when so many Syrians have been killed or forced from their homes.

"We have one million children living in refugee camps," Sabra told The Canadian Press in an interview Saturday.

"In this environment, who can talk about a political solution?"

Sabra said he wants to see action from U.S. President Barack Obama, who has said he considers chemical weapons a "red line" in the conflict. But he said Canada should also play a larger role.

"When we think about Canada, we think about human rights. We expect a special role from Canada in this field," Sabra said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter on Wednesday that the country will submit a resolution Wednesday calling on the UN Security Council to authorize "necessary measures to protect civilians."

His office says military force is one of the options that can be authorized.

"We have always made clear that we want the UN Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on Syria. Today we are giving its permanent members the opportunity to do that," a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement.

Syria's foreign minister has said any force will be met with force through "all available means."

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News

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