Aug 28 2013
David Cameron will chair a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) to discuss possible military action against Syria.
Ahead of Thursday's recall of Parliament, the NSC is expected to discuss the intelligence gathered by United Nations inspectors from their visit to Mouadamiya, where last week's suspected chemical weapons attack is believed to have taken place. The council will also consider whether or not to push ahead with a military strike against President Bashar Assad.
Mr Cameron said before the meeting that any intervention in Syria would not be about the conflict itself, but preventing the use of chemical weapons by any regime.
Decisions about British involvement have not been taken, he said on Tuesday, adding Parliament was the "right place to set out all of the arguments". He said action must be "proportionate, have to be legal, would have to specifically be about deterring the use of chemical weapons".
Mr Cameron, whose request to recall Parliament early was granted by the Speaker, said Thursday's debate would ensure "proper" scrutiny and allow the Government to listen to MPs. "Obviously this is a developing situation, as I say, decisions have not been taken, but we shouldn't stand by when we see this massive use of chemical weapons and appalling levels of suffering," he said. "I think in Parliament is the right place to set out all of the arguments, all of the questions. But I would say this to people - there is never 100% certainty, there is never one piece or several pieces of intelligence that give you absolute certainty.
"But what we know is this regime has huge stocks of chemical weapons. We know they have used them on at least 10 occasions prior to this last widescale use. We know they have both the motive and the opportunity whereas the opposition does not have those things and the opposition's chance of having used chemical weapons in our view is vanishingly small."
The NSC includes Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, Home Secretary Theresa May and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg among its members.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned that Britain cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to go unchallenged, saying Britain "cannot allow diplomatic paralysis to be a shield" for Assad.
On Tuesday, Labour leader Ed Miliband indicated that his party would consider supporting international action, "but only on the basis that it was legal, that it was specifically limited to deterring the future use of chemical weapons, and that any actions contemplated had clear and achievable goals".
While political momentum towards intervention mounts, the British public has yet to be persuaded. A YouGov survey for The Sun revealed that nearly three-quarters of people oppose the deployment of British troops to Syria, and a majority of 3-1 believe the Government should be bound by Parliament's vote.