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U.K. Lawmakers Reject Syria Strikes

  • RFE/RL

British Prime Minister David Cameron accepted defeat for the government's proposed measure on possible military strikes on Syria.

British Prime Minister David Cameron accepted defeat for the government's proposed measure on possible military strikes on Syria.

Britain's parliament has rejected taking military action against Syrian government targets over the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Reports from Washington said that in response to the British vote, the Obama administration is preparing for the possibility of taking unilateral military action against the Syrian regime.

The vote in the House of Commons in London on August 29 was 285 opposed, 272 in favor of the government’s motion on joining potential military action.

Prime Minister David Cameron accepted the defeat for his government, saying it was clear that lawmakers are opposed to military intervention in Syria and that he will not override the will of parliament and approve military operations.

"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," Cameron said.

He added: "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."

British lawmakers opposed to strikes had raised concerns that United Nations investigators have not yet reported on their probe of the alleged attack, and that the UN Security Council has not voted in support of any outside military action.

Russia, an ally of the Syrian government, has blocked any such measures in the Security Council.

Cameron had strongly backed possible strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's regime over allegations that Syrian government forces launched a chemical weapons attack last week that killed hundreds of people.

In a statement issued after the British vote, the White House indicated that U.S.-led strikes were still possible without the involvement of America's ally.

A statement said President Barack Obama's decisions "will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States."

The statement said Obama "believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States" over the Syrian situation, and that "countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable."

Separately, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Obama administration would still seek to build an international coalition to back any strikes on Syria.

U.S. warships armed with cruise missiles have been moving toward the eastern Mediterranean in case strikes are ordered.

France has also readied forces for possible strikes.

The Syrian government has denied carrying out suspected toxic gas attack in the area of Ghouta, east of Damascus, on August 21.

The government says it has the upper hand in the war, and has accused rebel forces of being responsible for the attack, saying they are trying to trigger Western intervention.

In comments released on August 29, Assad said Syria was ready to "defend itself against any aggression."

A congressman from Obama’s Democratic Party told reporters that Obama has not yet made a decision on the timing or scale of possible military intervention.

However, Representative Eliot Engel of New York, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said administration officials told lawmakers that they have "no doubt" that Assad's forces used chemical weapons.

Engel said officials cited "intercepted communications from high-level Syrian officials," as well as intelligence showing that Syrian forces moved weapons into position ahead of the attack.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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