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Obama's pause on Syria may prompt British Parliament to reconsider

British lawmakers, who refused Thursday to support a strike on Syria, might vote again now that the U.S.' hesitation is providing time to weigh new evidence.

September 01, 2013|By Henry Chu and Kim Willsher
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron announced last week that his government would not participate in any U.S.-led military intervention in Syria. He might revive the matter in Parliament, however.
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced last week that his government… (Facundo Arrizabalaga,…)

LONDON — President Obama's decision to seek congressional approval for a military strike on Syria could open the door to another vote by the British Parliament, which rejected such intervention, senior officials here suggested Sunday.

French lawmakers also seized on Obama's decision as an argument for holding their own vote on armed intervention in Syria.

The delay before a possible strike as Obama makes his case to U.S. lawmakers could give their British counterparts time to consider new evidence pointing toward the Syrian government's culpability in gassing rebel-held neighborhoods in Damascus.

"It opens a very important new opportunity," the chairman of the parliamentary intelligence committee, Malcolm Rifkind, told the BBC. Rifkind, a former British defense secretary, supports force as an option in responding to the Syrian government's alleged chemical attack.

He said Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition leader Ed Miliband should now agree to revive the matter in the House of Commons, which dealt Cameron a shocking defeat Thursday by rejecting his request for an endorsement, in principle, of a military strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Lawmakers from Miliband's Labor Party were joined by skeptics among Cameron's own Conservatives in shooting down the motion by a 285-272 vote last week. A grim-faced Cameron immediately announced that his government would not participate in any U.S.-led military intervention.

French President Francois Hollande has said his country would join the U.S. in a military strike and, unlike Cameron, has not sought the consent of Parliament. But opposition parties warned him not to make any "hasty decisions" and demanded a vote in the National Assembly, even though Hollande is not obliged to call or heed such a vote.

A debate on Syria in the assembly is scheduled for Wednesday.

"Like the president of the United States, who, in the name of democratic principles, has decided to consult the American Congress, the French president must do the same and organize a formal vote of Parliament," Jean-Louis Borloo, head of the centrist Union of Democrats and Independents, said in a written statement.

Times staff writer Chu reported from London and special correspondent Willsher from Paris.

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