Syria crisis: David Cameron defends 'strong stance' over chemical weapon attack

PM says proposal by Russia to send inspectors to seize arms would not have happened without the determination to stand up to Assad regime

David Cameron has defended the “strong stance” taken by the UK and US in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, claiming international pressure had led to a potential diplomatic breakthrough.

The Prime Minister said the proposal from Russia for international inspectors to seize and destroy chemical weapons in Syria would not have happened without the determination to stand up to Bashar al-Assad.

Barack Obama is conditionally endorsing the Russian offer, but insisted that US forces remained prepared to launch a strike if necessary.

Mr Cameron told MPs the development was a "vindication" of the "determination to stand up to chemical weapons use".

"We would not be in this position of pursuing new avenues of getting Syrian chemical weapons out of Syria and destroyed unless a strong stance had been taken," he said.

In response to Respect's George Galloway at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron added: "That is the right answer, not crawling up to dictators and telling them how wonderful they are."

Mr Galloway said that without Mr Cameron's defeat on the issue in the Commons "Britain and the United States would already be in the midst of what, it has turned out, would have been a wholly unnecessary war".

In a television address to the US, president Obama said he had asked congressional leaders to delay a vote on a resolution authorising limited military strikes, giving time to pursue the Russian plan and avoiding a potential humiliating defeat.

Speaking from the White House, Mr Obama admitted the prospect of a prolonged military campaign was unpopular with many and said: "I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.

"I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo.

"This will be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective - deter the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad's capabilities.

"A targeted strike can make Assad - or any other dictator - think twice about using chemical weapons."

President Obama said he had long resisted calls for military action in Syria because he did not believe force could solve the civil war.

But he said he changed his mind after the chemical weapons attack in Damascus on August 21.

Describing the images of death as "sickening", Mr Obama said: "On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits - a crime against humanity and a violation of the laws of war.

"On August 21, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity."

Mr Obama said he was continuing discussions with Vladimir Putin, while dispatching secretary of state John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart. He said the US would continue its "diplomatic path" to remove weapons without the use of force, with congress postponing a vote on authorising military action.

Mr Obama said he was also speaking to Mr Cameron and French leader Francois Hollande and would work with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the United Nations Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons.

The president said the United States could not be the "world's policeman", but added that the nation could save Syrian children from being gassed to death.

He said: "Sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.

"What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?

"Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria.

"It is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable