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Second vote needed for Syria strike

David Cameron was forced to concede that a vote on UK military action in Syria should await a report by UN inspectors on the use of chemical weapons in the face of opposition from Labour and rebel MPs.

The Prime Minister has recalled Parliament to consider the response to the use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad's regime and MPs will now be asked to agree the principle that military action may be justified in response to the atrocity.

Mr Cameron accepted that a second vote allowing direct British military involvement would be necessary after Labour leader Ed Miliband indicated he would oppose the Government in the Commons unless the inspectors were allowed to complete their work, Opposition sources said.

Downing Street said Mr Cameron was determined to act in a consensual way and had never ruled out a second vote although he believed it would be "difficult".

The motion which the Prime Minister will present in the Commons states that the UN security council (UNSC) should consider a briefing from the inspectors and seek to agree a resolution on military strikes against Syria - although ministers conceded this was unlikely given Russian and Chinese opposition. Crucially it states: "Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place."

Labour said the Prime Minister had committed a U-turn on the need for a second vote 90 minutes after being informed of Mr Miliband's stance.

A number of Government backbenchers have also expressed concerns about the prospect of UK involvement in the complex and bloody civil war in Syria. Downing Street insisted that the Prime Minister was committed to the UN process and had made his views clear to US president Barack Obama during their discussions on how to respond to the use of chemical agents.

The motion will ask MPs to agree "that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria's chemical weapons". It states that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime and that the principle of humanitarian intervention "provides a sound legal basis for taking action".

Mr Hague accepted that the Government had made "an effort to accommodate the concerns and questions of other parties" in its motion. He said the motion "reflects the deep concerns in this country about what happened in Iraq" and stressed the Government's desire for a "consensual" approach.

The Foreign Secretary also acknowledged that the US could go ahead with strikes against targets in Syria without the UK being involved. Mr Hague, who has spoken to US secretary of state John Kerry, said: "The United States are able to make their own decisions. Of course, we will remain closely co-ordinated with them and in close touch with them as we are every day... I hope the message will go out loud and clear from Britain that the use of chemical weapons in the 21st century cannot be tolerated and that is something that people across all political parties should be able to support."


From Belfast Telegraph