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Britain rules out second vote on Syrian strike

Syrian protesters rally to condemn the poison gas attack on the suburbs of Damascus, in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan on Friday, August 23, 2013.

LONDON — British officials have ruled out a second parliamentary vote on participation in a military strike against the Syrian government.

President Barack Obama’s decision to seek a vote in Congress on military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government prompted senior British politicians to call for another vote after Parliament’s surprising rejection Thursday of plans to respond with armed intervention to alleged nerve gas attacks in Damascus’ suburbs. But Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said Monday there were “absolutely no plans” to go back to Parliament for a second vote.

Western powers hold Assad responsible for chemical attacks that reportedly killed more than 1,400 people on Aug. 21. U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry described evidence Sunday that Assad’s government used deadly sarin gas on civilians. France said Monday that evidence gathered by its intelligence services proved “undeniably” that Assad’s forces had carried out a “massive and coordinated” chemical attack on civilians. Those reports, and Obama’s decision to seek congressional authority, came after the British Parliament’s vote.

“If there is new and better evidence that inculpates Assad I see no reason why the government should not lay a new motion before Parliament, inviting British participation,” London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote in Monday’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

But after the daily briefing to the national press Monday morning, the prime minister’s spokesman — who was unidentified, in accordance with British government policy — was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as saying: “Parliament has spoken. The government has absolutely no plans to go back to Parliament. In response to the use of chemical weapons, the government made the case for a robust response. It put before the house the Joint Intelligence Committee paper. The government made its case and Parliament expressed its view. Parliament has made clear its will that there be no British involvement in military action and we will respect that.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was similarly adamant. The BBC quoted him as saying at a news conference: “We’re not going to go back to Parliament with the same question on the same issue, in response to the same atrocity the week before last, because that decision was made by Parliament.”

Stobart is a news assistant in the Times’ London bureau. Special correspondent Kim Willsher in Paris contributed to this report.

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