Canada backs military action against Syria, plans none of its own

Thu Aug 29, 2013 1:39pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada has been convinced Western military action is needed against Syria after reports it used chemical weapons, but Ottawa does not plan its own military mission, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday.

Harper told reporters in Toronto that doing nothing in the face of what he said appeared to be an escalation in the use of chemical weapons by Syria would set "an extremely dangerous precedent."

"This is a very big risk and we do support our allies who are contemplating forceful action to deal with this," said Harper, who spoke to U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday about Syria and has also talked with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.

"That said, at the present time the government of Canada has no plans, we have no plans of our own, to have a Canadian military mission."

Canada took part in the 2011 NATO mission against the forces of then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and for a time commanded the mission.

Because the Syrian conflict is overwhelmingly sectarian and has no ideal or obvious outcomes, Harper said his government has been "a very reluctant convert" to the need for a Western military response.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Philip Barbara and Cynthia Osterman)

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a news conference in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut August 22, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie