JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng: An international political grouping headed by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan came out against military action in Syria Wednesday, as the US sought allies for strikes following alleged chemical attacks.
"There is no military solution to this conflict," said The Elders, a group founded by former South African president Nelson Mandela.
"Therefore every effort must be made to stop further bloodshed and to re-energise the political process to put an end to the conflict that has devastated and brutalised Syria," the group said in a statement.
US President Barack Obama is seeking global backing for punitive strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Obama has deferred military action pending Congressional approval at a vote scheduled for September 9. Meanwhile French President Francois Hollande has vowed to "punish" Assad, while Syrian ally Russia has attacked the idea of military strikes.
The Elders, which includes former US president Jimmy Carter, archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu and ex-president of Ireland Mary Robinson, condemned the August 21 gas attack in a Damascus suburb as "inhumane and criminal".
"Those responsible must be held accountable, both individually and collectively."
But the group urged world leaders to await UN chemical weapons inspectors' report and "deliberations of the UN Security Council" before taking action.
The inspectors left Damascus last Saturday after collecting samples for testing.
"The Security Council has a moral responsibility to find common ground, putting the well-being of the Syrian people at the forefront of its decisions, in order to end the violence and achieve a peaceful settlement based on an inclusive political process," The Elders said.
Over 100,000 people have been killed and more than two million have fled Syria since the conflict started in 2011.