British parliamentarians have voted against authorizing military action against Syria. Prime Minister David Cameron had proposed the motion in response to the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians.
The prime minister's motion was narrowly rejected by 13 votes Thursday, with 285 members of parliament voting no. The result appears to all but rule out British involvement in a potential military intervention in Syria.
Cameron vowed not to override parliament and order a military strike anyway, saying he would instead respect the views of the people.
"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," he said.
"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."
Cameron said before the vote that there was "an enormous amount" of evidence that the attack near Damascus last week that killed hundreds of people was linked to the Syrian regime, but admitted there was no "one smoking piece of intelligence" proving Assad had ordered it.
Security Council convenes
The five members of the UN Security Council wrapped up a meeting on Syria earlier Thursday, appearing to be no closer towards reaching an agreement with how to proceed. The ambassadors of China, France, Britain, Russia and the US broke after less than an hour, with none of them available for comment.
It was the second consecutive day the nations had met to discuss a resolution proposed by Britain to authorize the use of military force against the Syrian government in response to the chemical weapons attack.
Early Friday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Washington still aims to act in Syria with allies.
"It is the goal of President (Barack) Obama and our government ... whatever decision is taken, that it be an international collaboration and effort," Hagel said during a trip to the Philippines. Despite Britain's vote against military action, he said the US would continue to consult the UK.
The US and Britain have been making the case for military intervention in Syria, but Russia has consistently rejected any such action, saying there is no firm evidence to prove the attack was carried out by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Congress to be briefed
In Washington, President Barack Obama has been working to convince lawmakers that a military strike in Syria is the proper course of action. The White House has been pushing for a "very discrete and limited" attack, rather than a full-scale military intervention.
National security officials briefed Congress on Syria Thursday. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense chief Hagel are among those who spoke to lawmakers.
The Obama administration has rejected comparisons between their currently classified intelligence claiming to show the Syrian regime's role in last week's attack, and the false intelligence purporting the existence of weapons of mass destruction used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
dr/av (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)