US moves closer to Britain over Syria

The change in the White House's position on Syria appears designed to bring it more into line with that long argued for by Britain and France.

London and Paris have maintained that President Assad must be made to realise that he cannot secure a military victory against his opponents and must be forced to the negotiating table.

Overnight, all Downing Street have been prepared to say is that the British government were kept informed of the decision.

However, just 24 hours earlier the foreign secretary was in Washington holding talks with his opposite number, the US secretary of state.

William Hague declared that "we will have to be prepared to do more to save lives, to pressure the Assad regime to negotiate seriously".

Ten days ago the prime minister shocked many MPs by declaring that - in future - the government might arm the Syrian rebels and comparing those who urged caution with those who did nothing as hundreds of thousands were slaughtered in the Bosnian conflict.

Since then the concerns expressed not just by Labour but also by many Tory backbenchers and some within his own cabinet has persuaded David Cameron to moderate his tone and to promise a Commons vote on the issue.

The question now is - if President Obama does order the arming of the Syrian rebels will Britain follow suit and would the MPs vote for it?

Before that, though, it is now clear what the focus will be of both the G8 summit in Fermanagh next week and, in particular, of the prime minister's eve-of-summit meeting with Russia's President Putin.