August 28, 2013 / 9:34 AM / 6 years ago

Anglican leader warns Cameron not to 'rush to judgment' on Syria

LONDON (Reuters) - The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged British Prime Minister David Cameron not to “rush to judgment” over military action in Syria, warning it could have unforeseeable consequences across the Muslim world.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks to the congregation during his first service at Canterbury Cathedral in southern England March 23, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Justin Welby’s comments were published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper before meeting of Britain’s National Security Council on Wednesday which Cameron will chair.

Parliament will debate Britain’s response to chemical weapons attacks in Syria on Thursday after Cameron cut short his holiday and recalled lawmakers (MPs) to address the issue.

Welby, leader of the 80-million-member Anglican church, said members of parliament must be sure about the facts before acting in what is a “really delicate and dangerous situation.

“The things MPs will have to bear in mind in what is going to be a very very difficult debate is firstly: are we sure about the facts on the ground?” he said.

“Secondly: is it possible to have a carefully calibrated response, including armed force, if you are sure about the facts on the ground, that does not have unforeseeable ramifications across the whole Arab and Muslim world?”

He acknowledged that people outside government, including himself, did not know what the true situation in Syria was.

“The government and the Americans are seeing intelligence nobody else sees - I just think we have to be very careful about rushing to judgment,” he said.

Adding that the situation is enormously complex, he reflected on the mood of Christians across the region.

“I think the overwhelming sense is of a really moving and terrible sense of fear about what might be happening in the next few weeks,” he said.

The impact on people not directly involved in the fighting is “beyond description and horrible”.

Reporting by Li-mei Hoang; editing by Stephen Addison; Editing by Alistair Lyon

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