Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vital parliamentary vote on Thursday night (August 29) meant to pave the way for Britain to join a looming military strike on Syria, in a move that appeared to all but rule out British involvement in such action.

After an extended parliamentary debate, Cameron and his coalition government failed to pass a motion that would have authorised military action against Syria in principle by 285 to 272 votes.

The Speaker of the House announced the result.

"The Ayes to the right, 272. The Noes to the left, 285. So the Noes have it, the Noes have it."

After the vote, Labour leader Ed Miliband asked whether Cameron would promise not to circumvent parliament and authorise military action.

"There having been no motion passed by this House tonight, can the Prime Minister confirm to the House that he will not use the Royal Prerogative to order the UK to be part of military action - given the will of the House that has been expressed tonight - before there has been another vote in this House of Commons."

Cameron confirmed he would not override the will of parliament and approve military action and said it was clear lawmakers did not want to see a military strike on the Syrian government to punish it for an illegal chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus last week.

"I can give that assurance. Let me say, the House has not voted for either motion tonight. I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons. It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action - I get that and the government will act accordingly."

The vote reflected deep divisions about using force to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for what Western governments believe was his use of chemical weapons against civilians.

U.S. President Barack Obama's top national security officials were due to brief Congress on Syria later on Thursday, but any intervention looked set to be delayed at least until U.N. investigators report back after leaving Syria on Saturday (August 31).

Presented by Adam Justice

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