Cameron talks of 'regret' over Syria vote


The prime minister has expressed regret over last week's Commons vote rejecting military action against the Syrian regime.

On 4 September 2013, David Cameron held his first question session with MPs since the summer recess and clashed with Labour leader Ed Miliband over future international diplomatic efforts.

Mr Cameron told the House: "I accept that Britain can't be part and won't be part of any military action... but we must not in any degree give up our utter revulsion at the chemical attacks which we've seen."

On 29 August, Parliament voted to reject a government motion on the principle that military action could be required to protect Syrian civilians.

The governments of the United States and the UK have claimed the Syrian regime was responsible for a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August.

Ed Miliband echoed the prime minister's "revulsion" at the chemical weapons attack but argued: "Last week's vote was not about Britain shirking its global responsibilities. It was about preventing the rush to war."

Mr Cameron said his "only regret" was that he didn't think it had been "necessary to divide the House" and accused Labour of responsibility for having done so.

The Labour leader pressed the government to involve "regional partners" in the Middle East, including Iran, in peace talks.

He said he did not doubt that Iran had been "fuelling" the conflict but said diplomacy involved "talking to those with whom we profoundly disagree".

UK diplomatic staff were withdrawn from Iran and the embassy closed in 2011, after it was attacked by protesters.

Mr Cameron said Foreign Secretary William Hague would meet his Iranian counterpart at the forthcoming UN General Assembly, but urged MPs not to "forget what Iran has done to our embassy and to our country."

Labour MP and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Iran had held a presidential election since the attack on the UK's embassy and said he believed new president Hassan Rouhani was someone "the west and the British prime minister can deal with".

Mr Cameron agreed that the election of Mr Rouhani was a "positive step".

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