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Zuma: Don't bomb Syria to ashes

President Jacob Zuma challenged Commonwealth leaders to take a stand on Syria.

President Zuma flanked by Speaker of SA National Parliament Max Sisulu and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Mr Mninwa Mahlangu). President Jacob Zuma officially opened the 59th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference 2013 held at Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa. 02/09/2013, Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma says member states of the Commonwealth cannot remain silent while Syria is being "bombed to ashes" for the world to see.

Over the weekend, United States (US) President Barack Obama announced his wish to use military power to strike back at Syria's government which he accused of using chemical weapons against its citizens.

But Obama will have to wait for the outcome of a vote on the matter from the US Congress.

The vote will likely take place soon after 9 September.

The US says more than 1,400 people died in the attack, but there is no consensus amongst world leaders on what action to take.

Speaking at Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Sandton on Monday, Zuma warned that only the United Nations (UN) holds the power to launch a military operation in Syria.

He added this should only be done once all other avenues had been exhausted.

Zuma also warned against the abuse of the UN Security Council by countries seeking to advance hidden agendas.

He told delegates to conclude the conference with a unified position and response to the Syrian conflict.

"You must not lose this opportunity to add the voice of the Commonwealth on behalf of all of us."

Zuma says the timing of this year's conference is crucial.

"My view is that you are meeting at the right time - when there is a challenge to the global situation."

In a statement released on state media by the Syrian government, officials reportedly asked the UN to prevent a possible attack by the West.

The Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu)'s Patrick Craven echoed Zuma's call for a peaceful resolution, saying talks need to be held.

"The escalation of violence, particularly if it's directed from outside the country in Syria, will only make the problem worse. We believe ways have to be found to try to bring the parties together."

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