Russia Turn Against Assad if Given More Proof, Says Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said his government could approve an attack against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if it saw proof that it had resorted to chemical warfare. “We have no data that those chemical substances – it is not yet clear whether it was chemical weapons or simply some harmful chemical substances – were used precisely by the official government army”, said Putin during an interview on Russian television. When asked if Russia would agree to a military attack if it saw conclusive proof that government forces had used chemical weapons, he said he did “not rule it out”. He confirmed that Russia had sold Syria a surface-to-air missile system, but that final parts would only be delivered in case “existing international norms” were violated. Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said an attack against Assad could actually open the way for more diplomacy. “Is an intervention a contradiction to finding a political solution? Not only is it not contradictory, but if we want a political solution, then we must help move the situation, otherwise Assad will just continue like that”, he said.
British PM Vows to Push for Syrian Peace
British Prime Minister David Cameron said during Prime Minister’s Questions that he would use the UK’s “diplomatic networks” to try to bring about Syrian peace talks. During an exchange with Labour leader Ed Miliband, Cameron said that “we must use everything we have in our power – our diplomatic networks, our influence with other countries, our membership of all the key bodies, the G8, the G20, the UN, the EU, Nato – we must use all that influence to bring to bear. My only regret of last week is that I don’t think it was necessary to divide the House on a vote that would have led to a vote but he took the decision that it was”. Cameron again reiterated that he wouldn’t “be bringing back plans for British participation in military action” in the future, saying that he respected the outcome of last week’s vote ruling out any UK involvement in a coalition of countries against the regime in Damascus.
Strong Services Sector Pushes UK to Grow Faster Than Europe
An index that measures services and manufacturing activity published on Wednesday suggested that the UK is set to grow faster than Europe after a strong performance in August. The Markit Flash Eurozone Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) jumped to 60.5, its highest level since December 2006. Markit’s chief European economist, Chris Williamson, interviewed by the Guardian, said that “there were many reports of an ongoing strengthening of market confidence which helped companies convert enquiries into hard contract wins. Marketing and an improvement in the housing market were also noted as reasons for higher sales volumes”. He also said that the growth was mainly supported by a rise in new business, the fastest growth since Tony Blair came to power in May 1997.
English Jails to Close and Make Way for Super-Prison in Wales
Four prisons in England are to be closed to pave way for a super-prison in north Wales, according to plans unveiled by Justice Secretary Chris Gayling. Reading, Dorchester, Blundeston and Northallerton prisons would be shut by March, with a new £250m prison to be built in Wrexham, capable of holding more than 2,000 inmates. “Of course the reorganisation of our prison estate which we are undertaking means some difficult decisions. But we have to make sure that we have modern, affordable prisons that give the best opportunity for us to work with offenders to stop them committing more crimes when they leave”, said Gayling. But his plans were criticised by campaigners who said it would not solve any problems. “Closing small local prisons and replacing them with super-sized jails will not reduce crime or make communities safer”, said Juliet Lyon, of the Prison Reform Trust.