DAMASCUS: Syria's parliament speaker on Wednesday urged France "not to hasten" to act against his war-torn country, as French lawmakers prepared to hold a debate on whether punitive strikes against the regime should go ahead.
The French parliament is due to hold the debate from 1400 GMT following President Francois Hollande's pledge to "punish" Damascus for an alleged poison gas attack on August 21 that the West blames on the regime. But it will not vote Wednesday on the issue.
"Syrian lawmakers are determined to get to the truth... and we ask you not to hasten to commit a heinous, senseless crime, as you must steer the French republic away from the war path and towards diplomacy," Jihad Lahham said in a statement published by the SANA official news agency.
"Before announcing war, is it not more reasonable to wait a bit?" Lahham asked in the statement addressed to the French lower house National Assembly and upper house Senate.
"Despite the tragedies that hit Iraq before, some are looking for another war to destroy secular Syria, which would lead to a confessional conflict in the region and would increase current human suffering."
UN experts travelled to Syria last week and visited the sites of the alleged August 21 poison gas attack in the Damascus suburbs. They left the country on Saturday with numerous samples, which are currently being analysed.
Lahham reiterated that Syria was cooperating with the United Nations on the alleged attack, which Washington has said killed more than 1,400 people.
Since the conflict broke out in March 2011 with an uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, more than 110,000 people have been killed, including over 40,100 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.