11 Sep 2013

Students' straw poll against strike on Syria without UN mandate

12:09 am on 11 September 2013

The first public debate on New Zealand's role in the Syrian crisis has revealed opposition to a United States air strike.

New Zealand has been asked to provide moral support for a US intervention after growing evidence that Syria's government killed 1,400 of its people in a chemical gas attack last month.

The National Peace and Conflict Centre at Otago University organised Tuesday's lunchtime forum.

Centre director Kevin Clements told the audience military action without United Nations approval would be an illegal assault, and New Zealand must not provide a figleaf for an unethical situation.

But a Middle East politics expert, Professor Bill Harris, says Syria's president Bashar al-Assad is running a vicious, lying, murdering regime, which must be delivered a lesson.

A straw poll of the 100 students, staff and others in the audience showed more than two-thirds opposed a US strike.