Britain, Germany reject military intervention in Syria

David Cameron

The US is set to take military action against Syria.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, suffered a humiliating defeat when his motion in favour of military intervention in Syria was narrowly defeated by parliament.

Also, Germany will not take part in any military action against Syria, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday. The vote means the close U.S. ally would not participate if U.S. President, Barack Obama, launches a strike on Syria in response to a poison gas attack last week that killed hundreds of people.

Members of Mr. Cameron’s own Conservative party voted with the Labour opposition to defeat the motion 285 to 272.

There were shouts of “resign”‘ from Labour lawmakers after the results of the vote were announced.

“It is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action,” Mr. Cameron told lawmakers. “I get that and the government will act accordingly.”

Mr. Cameron said while he believed in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, he also believed in respecting the will of the House of Commons.

Mr. Cameron had urged British parliamentarians to back military action against Syria, even while admitting that there was no definitive evidence the Syrian regime had carried out chemical weapons attacks.

The defeat of the motion would not dissuade the U.S. from its course, a White House spokeswoman said.

The U.S. holds that countries that violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable, Caitlin Hayden said.

“President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the U.S,” Ms. Hayden said.

The vote in Britain came as President Bashar al-Assad vowed Syria would defend itself against any aggression and the UN said its weapons inspectors would leave the country on Saturday.

The weapons inspectors were to continue their investigations on Friday and would draw up a report as soon as they had left Syria on Saturday, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said in Vienna.

They spent their third day in the field on Thursday as Mr. al-Assad said Syria would win against any assault “with its steadfast people and brave army.”

“The threats of launching a direct aggression on Syria will make it more determined to stick to its fixed principles and its independent decisions,” he said, according to state media.

A push by Western leaders for military intervention after they blamed Mr. al-Assad’s government for the deaths of hundreds of people in chemical weapons attacks last week has now been stalled by political rows and diplomatic deadlock.

The Syrian government, in a move seen by the West as a delaying tactic, requested that the UN inspectors stay longer to investigate three other sites. Moscow echoed the demand on Thursday.

Efforts to reach a consensus among the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council were unsuccessful again on Thursday.

An emergency meeting of the representatives of the five countries ended after one hour with no comment from any delegation.

The meeting was called to discuss a British resolution authorising “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Syria.

On Wednesday, China and Russia continued their objections to Western military intervention in Syria’s 30-month-old civil war.

The Iranian President, Hassan Rowhani, and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, reiterated their opposition to a strike, agreeing in a telephone call late Wednesday that such a step would be a breach of international law, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Russia is sending two warships to the eastern Mediterranean, the country’s general staff said.

An anti-submarine frigate from the Russian Northern Fleet would arrive in the region in the coming days, the Interfax, the news agency reported.

It would be joined by the cruiser Moskva, currently in the North Atlantic.

U.S. Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, said earlier in the week that the U.S. military had “moved assets in place” in the region to be able to fulfill whatever option President, Barack Obama orders.

The Pentagon said on Thursday a U.S. Navy destroyer had arrived in the Mediterranean Sea to relieve one of the four destroyers already there.

The spokeswoman said that the arrival of the USS Stout was a previously arranged manoeuvre that is not tied to a possible military strike against Syria.

The ship is capable of carrying up to 96 Tomahawk cruise missiles and typically also carries Sea-sparrow anti-aircraft missiles and torpedoes, the spokeswoman said.

Top U.S. officials, including Hagel and Secretary of State, John Kerry, briefed members of Congress on Thursday on intelligence about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the White House said.

The report is expected to show evidence that the Syrian regime was behind the August 21 chemical attacks outside Damascus.

The move was part of Mr. Obama’s efforts to engage with Congress as he considers a U.S. response to the use of chemical weapons against civilians by the Syrian regime, said spokesman, Josh Earnest.

Mr. Obama also has been in close touch with European leaders about the situation in Syria.

He telephoned with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel on Thursday a White House spokesman said without providing further details.

Berlin was urging Russia to join in UN Security Council condemnation of Syria’s government for using chemical weapons, she said through her spokesman.

“We are not considering a military strike,” said Steffen Seibert, the spokesman.

Germany had avoided saying this week whether or not it would support possible U.S. air strikes. The silence ended when Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelles said that military involvement was not on the table.

“Such involvement has neither been asked for, nor is it being considered,” he said. His remarks were due for publication on Saturday.

Mr. Seibert said Ms. Merkel phoned U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday and urged that the Security Council be allowed to “exercise its responsibility” over the chemical weapons crisis.

“We hope the Security Council will develop a unanimous position,” he said, adding in a reference to Russia and China, “We hope no one in the Security Council will shut their eyes to such a crime.”


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