UK rules out military action or arming Syrian rebels

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE said they were expelling Syrian envoys

Britain categorically ruled out military intervention by the West in Syria yesterday despite the intensification of the crackdown on dissidents by President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

David Cameron chaired a meeting of the National Security Council which agreed to increase sanctions against the regime and to strengthen links with opposition leaders.

The Government also reacted sceptically to claims from the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, who visited Damascus yesterday, that Mr Assad was ready to end the violence and call a referendum on a new constitution. Downing Street said the regime had to be judged not by words but by its "savage" actions.

However, it made clear there was no prospect of arming rebel factions, stressing that support was limited to advice on communications and training. Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office minister, also said military action was impossible after Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution calling on Mr Assad to step down.

Mr Burt told Sky News: "To step in militarily... is easy to say, but incredibly difficult to do. It needs a UN resolution in order to be legal, supported by many nations. The action is not to be through a military intervention from the West."

Britain believes the Arab League has to lead pressure on Mr Assad to end his brutal suppression. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced yesterday they were recalling their ambassadors from Damascus and expelling Syrian envoys. The Gulf Cooperation Council, which comprises the six states, accused Syria of rejecting Arab attempts to "solve this crisis and prevent the bloodshed of the Syrian people". It said: "The council considers it is necessary for the Arab states... to take every decisive measure faced with this dangerous escalation against the Syrian people. Nearly a year into the crisis, there is no glint of hope in a solution."

In a report today, the House of Commons defence select committee also warns of practical problems in mounting another military operation on the scale of the intervention in Libya. The MPs said last year's intervention, which led to Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow, had been justified because of "the gravity of the situation and potential consequences of inaction" for civilians. However, they pointed out it was carried out before key defence cuts had been implemented.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones