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Military strike on Syria will make things worse: del Ponte

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

International military strikes on Syria will only make it more difficult to end the spiralling violence in the country, legendary former war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte warned Monday.

"I can't see a military intervention working," said Del Ponte, who is currently part of a UN team of investigators probing rights abuses in Syria.

"My experience in the Balkans leads me to believe this will only lead to more victims, more deaths," she told reporters in Geneva, referring to the eight years she spent as the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

"And that will make a political solution even more difficult to reach," she said, insisting that "a political solution is the only possible solution."

Del Ponte's comments came as US lawmakers returned Monday from a summer break to debate whether to back limited US strikes against the regime of Syrian President Basher al-Assad, accused of unleashing chemical weapons against his people last month.

She said that instead of preparing military strikes, the international community should be enabling a proper probe of the August 21 attack on a Damascus suburb, which Washington claims killed some 1,400 people, as well as other suspected chemical attacks in Syria.

"Now is the time to investigate... Now is the time to have the truth," she said.

Del Ponte also lamented the lack of international action towards reaching a negotiated end to the conflict.

"Nothing is happening," she said, warning that the UN commission of inquiry on Syria that she is a part of "has become an alibi for the international community to do nothing."

The four-member commission, headed by Brazilian Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, has so far been unable to gain access to Syria as Damascus has ignored repeated requests for entry.

Del Ponte said Monday she hoped that would soon change, pointing out that the commission had been in touch with Syrian authorities and was "on the right track to be able to enter".

In the meantime, the commission, which is set to publish its latest report on Syria on Wednesday, has been busy conducting interviews with refugees and exiles to create a "long list" of people and groups suspected of committing war crimes in the country.

"The list is growing longer day by day," Del Ponte said, stressing that both sides were responsible for atrocities.

"There are no good guys. All of them are bad," she said, decrying incredible acts of torture and cruelty.

"I have never before seen torture methods like the ones I'm seeing in Syria, not even in the Balkans conflict," she said.

Del Ponte said her greatest frustration was that the International Criminal Court in the Hague had not yet been asked to consider the horrific crimes being committed in Syria and to ensure accountability for those responsible.

"Why haven't countries decided yet to bring these crimes to justice?" she asked.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130909/military-strike-syria-will-make-things-worse-del-ponte