British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday he regretted the failure of the British parliament to support military action in Syria though he still felt Britain should have done something to prevent further slaughter in Syria.
“I think the American public, the American people and President Obama will understand,” Cameron said.
“I haven’t spoken to him (Obama) since the debate and the vote but I would expect to speak to him over the next day or so. I don’t think it’s a question of having to apologize,” Cameron said in an interview aired on British television channels.
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande said his country could go ahead with a strike on Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons against his own people in an attack that killed hundreds of people.
“The chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished,” Hollande said in an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, published on Friday and reported by CBS News.
Hollande said France wants a “proportional and firm action” but said when asked about the type of intervention that “all options are on the table.”
The votes came on a day that the Obama administration postponed disclosure of the intelligence that led it to conclude the regime of Bashar Assad was to blame for the Aug. 21 chemical attack that killed hundreds of people in a region north of Damascus. The British government released its intelligence findings Thursday.
The president would be willing to retaliate against Syria on his own, without an international coalition, a spokesman said following the vote in London.
“The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interests in the United States of America,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The British Parliament on Thursday narrowly voted against military action int Syria. In an interview on the BBC, British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said the 285-272 vote ruled out any military intervention by the United Kingdom.
The White House stepped up efforts Thursday to consult with Congress in advance of any U.S. military intervention in Syria, including private communications between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and a conference call for congressional leaders with senior administration officials.
More than one quarter of the 435-member House has signed a letter calling on Obama to seek congressional authorization for action in Syria. Boehner has stopped short of calling for a vote.
President Obama has said he has concluded the Syrian regime is behind the attack, as did a document released by Cameron that sets out the government’s legal position, stating that “military intervention to strike specific targets” would be “legally justifiable.”
A meeting of the U.N. Security Council’s permanent members ended quickly Thursday with no sign of progress on an agreement over Syria’s crisis. The meeting started breaking up after less than an hour, with the ambassadors of China, France, Britain, Russia and the United States walking out. It was the second time in two days that the five Security Council powers met.
The wrangling comes as Russia insisted no action could take place without U.N. approval, and it dispatched two warships to the Mediterranean where at least three U.S. warships have been positioned for days in case of an order to attack. Iran also announced it would coordinate its efforts with Russia to stop any attack.
In Britain, the opposition Labor Party USAT style had said it wants to see “compelling evidence” of the Syrian regime’s guilt before siding with Cameron’s governing coalition in a parliamentary vote.
Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee concluded that it is “highly likely” that Assad’s regime was responsible for the alleged chemical attack. A document released by the JLC forms the British government’s first published evidence indicating culpability for the attack.
The independent Doctors Without Borders group says at least 355 people died in the attack. Syria’s regime has denied using chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone and was quoted by Iranian state TV as saying that “military action will bring great costs for the region” and “it is necessary to apply all efforts to prevent it.”
According to state TV, Rouhani said both Iran and Russia would work in “extensive cooperation” to prevent any military action against Syria. The Iranian president also called such military action an “open violation” of international laws.
Britain can go to war without the express consent or backing of Parliament but in the wake of the Iraq War in 2003 there have been calls for the government to always seek the approval of Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government had sent a letter to the British government asking for talks.
“We implore you to communicate through civilized dialogue rather than a monologue of blood and fire,” the letter said, according to the BBC, which obtained a copy. The open letter was sent by the Syrian parliament speaker who also invited British MPs to send a delegation to the Mideast nation.
Photo: Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a debate on Syria, in Britain’s parliament, London Aug 29, 2013