UK & World News
Syria Warns British MPs Not To Be 'Reckless'
Syria has warned British MPs to avoid "reckless action" as they prepare to debate the suspected chemical attack in Damascus.
The Speaker of the Syrian Parliament wrote to Commons Speaker John Bercow to make clear the consequences of a military strike.
His intervention came after David Cameron was forced to drop plans for early intervention after Labour made clear its opposition.
The Government was further angered on Thursday morning when the Opposition vowed to push ahead with its own amendment, claiming it sets out a better path.
Tensions in Westminster mounted as it emerged six RAF Typhoon jets have been sent to Cyprus as a "prudent and precautionary measure".
And Syrian leader Bashad Assad issued a fresh warning, vowing his country would "defend itself in the face of any aggression".
Meanwhile, reports suggested Russia is sending an anti-submarine ship and missile cruiser to the Mediterranean.
Making clear the high stakes involved, the letter from Syria to MPs suggested international strikes could help terrorists and lead to the deaths of many British soldiers.
It said: "Before you rush over the cliffs of war, would it not be wise to pause? Remember the thousands of British soldiers killed and maimed in Afghanistan and Iraq ..."
The letter urged: "We ask you not to bomb us but to work with us ..." and invited Parliament to send its own delegation to Syria to check the conclusions of UN inspectors.
It condemned the chemical attack in Damascus "without reservation", continuing its repeated denial that is was not responsible for the massacre last week.
An international strike would be "an aggressive and unprovoked act of war", it declared, adding: "By attacking and weakening Syrian targets and institutions you would automatically strengthen our common enemy, Al Qaida and its affiliates."
Parliament has been recalled for an emergency debate on the crisis in Syria and MPs will vote at 10pm tonight on the Government's motion.
But the Prime Minister has already bowed to pressure from Labour and rebel Tory MPs and promised a second Commons vote before Britain supports military action.
MPs will now vote today on the principle of military action in response to a "crime against humanity" by Bashar Assad's regime.
Labour could still oppose the Government after vowing on Thursday morning to press ahead with its own amendment.
It calls for the inspectors to be given time to complete their report and for the production of "compelling evidence" that the Assad regime was responsible for the use of chemical weapons.
Ed Miliband said: "I'm determined to learn the lessons of the past, including Iraq, and we can't have the House of Commons being asked to write a blank cheque to the PM for military action."
A party source added: "We believe it [the amendment] gives a clearer road map, sets our clearer, criteria, of what must be done before any military action is taken."
Downing Street is furious at being backed into a corner and sources accused Mr Miliband of "playing politics" and trying to divide the country.
Mr Cameron chaired a Cabinet meeting this morning and will then make the case for military intervention at the start of the Commons debate at 2.30pm.
Ahead of the session, all the main party leaders will meet with their backbenchers in a final push to win their support.
Legal advice and evidence gathered by the intelligence services is also being published by Downing Street this lunchtime.
Parliament was recalled earlier this week following an international outcry at an apparent chemical weapons attack in Damascus.
The Government's motion calls for efforts to secure a UN Security Council resolution and more time for inspectors, both of which were demanded by Labour.
It now also vows: "Before any direct British involvement in such action, a further vote of the House of Commons will take place."
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Government had made "an effort to accommodate the concerns and questions of other parties" in its motion.
He said the motion "reflects the deep concerns in this country about what happened in Iraq" and stressed the Government's desire for a "consensual" approach.
"We are determined to take action against war crimes, against crimes against humanity and that is what the use of chemical weapons constitutes, but that we will also proceed as far as possible on a consensual basis," he said.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has confirmed weapons inspectors will complete their investigation on Friday and will report to him directly with their findings after leaving Syria on Saturday.