China calls for 'cautious' approach on Syria chemical weapons

BEIJING (AFP) - China called for a "cautious" approach to the Syrian chemical weapons crisis on Monday, as pressure grows for international action in the wake of an alleged gas attack near Damascus.

"All parties should handle the chemical weapons issue cautiously to avoid interfering in the overall direction of solving the Syria issue through political settlement," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a statement on the ministry's website.

Beijing backed a UN investigation to "find out the truth as soon as possible", he said.

Mr Wang made the comments as the West mulled possible military action against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Britain on Monday said the West could act even without full UN Security Council backing after last week's alleged gas attack which the Syrian opposition said killed hundreds of civilians.

"China has paid high attention to the reports that chemical weapons have been used in Syria," Mr Wang said. "China's view is that we will firmly oppose anyone who uses chemical weapons."

China, one of five veto-wielding permanent council members, has previously attempted to block moves leading to military action in overseas conflict. Beijing says it opposes intervention in other countries' internal affairs.

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