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Cameron defeated on Syria vote

David Cameron ruled out UK involvement in military action against Syria after his authority and international standing were dealt a severe blow by defeat on the issue in the Commons.

In what is thought to be an unprecedented parliamentary reverse over British military action, Tory rebels joined with Labour to inflict a humiliating defeat on the Prime Minister. A motion backing the use of force "if necessary" in response to last week's deadly chemical weapons attack was rejected by 272 votes to 285, majority 13.

Mr Cameron had already been forced to water down his stance - accepting Labour demands that direct British involvement would require a second vote following an investigation by United Nations weapons inspectors.

But the concession was not enough to win over enough coalition MPs, conscious that public opinion is heavily against any intervention and wary of the decade-long controversy over the Iraq war.

After the shock result and to shouts of "resign" from the Labour benches, Mr Cameron told MPs: "I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons. But I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons. It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly."

The result will not only dismay allies in Washington and elsewhere seeking a wide coalition of support for air strikes to punish the regime but also raise serious questions about Mr Cameron's leadership. It is also a blow for Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who firmly backed the Government's position.

Mr Cameron had told MPs there could be no "100% certainty" about who committed the attack but the evidence convinced him "beyond doubt" the regime was responsible. He said the biggest danger of escalation in the Syrian civil war, which has so far cost more than 100,000 lives, was for the world to "stand back and do nothing", encouraging more such attacks.

But Mr Miliband, while not ruling out supporting military action, said he required "compelling evidence" that the regime was responsible before backing even the principle of a military response.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond later confirmed that the UK would not now take part in any military response in Syria. He conceded that the defeat would "place some strain" on the so-called "special relationship" between Britain and the United States and he said the vote would be welcomed by the Assad regime.

"The Prime Minister is disappointed," he told BBC2's Newsnight. "He has not changed his view that a robust response from the international community is necessary to try to prevent the further use of chemical weapons. But he is absolutely clear that whatever the technicalities of the motions and amendments tonight, the mood of Parliament was that Britain should not be involved in military action and Britain will not be involved in military action."


From Belfast Telegraph