Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron.
(photo credit: Reuters)
LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vital parliamentary vote on Thursday night meant to pave the way for Britain to join a looming military strike on Syria, in a move that appeared to all but rule out British involvement in such action.
In a humiliating and unexpected development, Cameron and his coalition government failed to pass a motion that would have authorized military action against Syria in principle by 285 to 272 votes.
Cameron said afterwards he would not override the will of parliament and approve military action, saying it was clear that lawmakers did not want to see a military strike on the Syrian government to punish it for an illegal chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus last week.
British Defense Secretary Philip
Hammond said on Thursday that Britain would not take part in any
military action against Syria
after the government unexpectedly
lost a vital parliamentary vote on the issue.
"I hoped we would carry the argument but we understand there
is a deep well of suspicion about involvement in the Middle
East," Hammond told BBC TV's Newsnight program.
The United States
, a key ally, would be disappointed that
Britain "will not be involved," he added, but said: "I don't
expect that the lack of British participation will stop any
When asked by Labour leader Ed Miliband whether he would promise not to circumvent parliament and authorize military action, he said:
"I can give that assurance. 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 very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion, 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."