UK & World News
Syria: Government Defeat On Military Action
David Cameron has said he will respect the will of the House of Commons after MPs rejected a government motion on military action in Syria.
The motion, calling for a strong humanitarian response which may have included military strikes, was defeated by 272 votes to 285 on Thursday night.
Speaking after the defeat, Prime Minister David Cameron said it was clear Parliament "does not want to see British military action" in Syria.
He said: "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."
Conservative rebel MP Adam Holloway told Sky News: "I feel sorry for David Cameron personally because I know the guy is very sincere on this.
"To me what matters here is not so much the arithmetic of the vote but that it is much less likely now that we won't be intervening in a horrible civil war that is fast becoming a regional conflict.
"Outrage isn't a strategy."
Labour leader Ed Miliband called on the Prime Minister to confirm he would not use the Royal prerogative to order the UK to be part of military action before another vote in the House of Commons.
Mr Cameron replied: "I can give that assurance. Let me say the House has not voted for either motion tonight. I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons."
There were claims that a number of ministers had not taken part in the vote because they were involved in meetings and failed to hear the division bell.
Scottish National Party Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: "This is an unprecedented defeat for the Conservative Lib Dem coalition, for the Prime Minister David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
"We have finally learned lessons from Iraq, we should not be walking into military intervention without evidence, we shouldn't be proceeding on an attack on a sovereign state no matter the circumstances without the evidence of the UN weapons inspectors.
"I have heard from another member who apparently witnessed a senior Conservative calling for a rerun of the vote and suggesting that a number of ministers hadn't heard the division bell, were taking part in a meeting and didn't take part in the vote."
The PM had already been forced to water down his stance - accepting Labour demands that direct British involvement would require a second vote following an investigation by UN weapons inspectors.
A number of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs - who have spoken out regularly against military intervention in Syria - either supported Labour and voted against the Government or did not cast a vote.
It followed rejection for a Labour amendment to the motion which called for military action to be taken only once the UN Security Council had voted in light of a report from weapons inspectors on the ground in Syria.
Mr Cameron had earlier said the "abhorrent" chemical weapons attack in Damascus last week had caused "sickening human suffering" and could not be ignored.
But he stressed his plans should not be compared to the allied invasion of Iraq in 2003, which led to the downfall of Saddam Hussein.
He said: "This is not like Iraq, what we are seeing in Syria is fundamentally different. We are not invading a country. We are not searching for chemical or biological weapons."
He warned "decades of painstaking work" would be undone if there was no international action.
"The global consensus against the use of chemical weapons will be fatally unravelled, a 100-year taboo would be breached," he warned.
The Prime Minister admitted there was no "one smoking piece of intelligence" that made it 100% certain the Assad regime was behind the atrocity.
But he said he had been convinced by the available evidence and told MPs it was now up to them to make the same judgement.
The debate came after Downing Street published its legal advice for action and a letter detailing the position of intelligence experts.
Government lawyers believe Britain could launch a targeted strike on humanitarian grounds without agreement at the UN.
And evidence from the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) found a chemical weapons did take place and it was "highly likely" the Assad regime was to blame.
UN weapons inspectors are due to finish their work on Friday and will report directly to secretary general Ban Ki-moon within 24 hours.
But their conclusions will not apportion blame - they will only set out the evidence on whether a chemical attack happened or not.
The most recent opinion poll also showed public support for air strikes on Syria fell to 22%.
Syrian President Bashar al Assad issued a fresh warning on Thursday that the country would "defend itself in the face of any aggression".
Permanent members of the UN Security Council - the UK, America, France, Russia and China - met for an hour to discuss the situation.
The UK has tabled a draft resolution seeking approval for military action.
But Moscow, a key ally of Assad, is opposed to any military intervention and with China has vetoed all previous attempts to secure resolutions critical of the regime and imposing sanctions.
Reports suggested Russia is sending warships to the Mediterranean.
Six British RAF Typhoon jets were earlier sent to Cyprus as tensions mount, in what the Ministry of Defence called a "prudent and precautionary measure".