DAVID Cameron last night bowed to Labour demands and delayed any British strikes on Syria until after UN inspectors can visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack.
MPs had been recalled to Westminster for today’s debate on intervention in Syria, which was expected to conclude with a vote on whether the UK should begin immediate tactical strikes on targets connected to the government of Bashar al-Assad.
Labour had been expected to back the government, but yesterday party leader Ed Miliband said he wanted to see “compelling evidence” that al-Assad’s regime was behind last week’s attack before allowing his party to authorise any attack.
Miliband said his party would instead table a rival motion requiring Cameron to wait until the UN inspectors have reported back.
Despite initially refusing to discuss the possibility, Cameron caved and last night agreed to hold a second vote before any strikes – essentially accepting Labour’s ammendment and ensuring the UK will not launch strikes until after the weekend.
The US, which has been preparing for imminent attacks, could still choose to push ahead with strikes on its own during the next few days.
Cameron’s decision reduces today’s proceedings to a symbolic exercise where MPs will be asked to express disgust at the al-Assad regime’s “crime against humanity”.
The government says any strikes would be “legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives”. Earlier in the day United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon urged the UK and US to hold back from attacking Syria.