China tells Washington to return to UN on Syria, urges caution

China tells Washington to return to UN on Syria, urges caution
A protester holds a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a rally on September 1, 2013.

BEIJING - China urged the United States to proceed with extreme caution and return to the United Nations to discuss Syria after Washington said it was not seeking Security Council approval for action in response to a chemical weapons attack last month.

Washington and Paris say forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were behind the attack in which more than 1,400 are estimated to have been killed, and that they are considering air strikes to try to deter him from using such weapons again.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said relevant countries should "think thrice" before acting and exercise "extreme caution".

" should return to the United Nations Security Council framework to seek consensus and appropriately handle the Syria issue," Wang told US Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone call late on Sunday night.

China and the United States should take the lead in upholding the UN charter to "preserve and protect the basic norms of international relations and oppose any use of chemical weapons", Wang said, according to a statement on the Foreign Ministry's website.

The remarks come after Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President Barack Obama at a G20 summit in Russia on Friday that a military strike could not solve the problem and that a political solution was the correct way out.

China has repeatedly called for an impartial investigation by UN chemical weapons inspectors into the attack in Syria, and has warned against pre-judging the results. It has also said that whoever used chemical weapons had to be held accountable.

UN inspectors are likely to hand in their report later this week while the US Congress debates whether to allow limited strikes on Syria.

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