POLITICS

David Cameron Says UK Will Work With Syria Rebels, Despite 'Deeply Unsavoury' Elements, But Parliament Will Get Vote On Arming Them

15/06/2013 16:39 BST | Updated 15/06/2013 16:40 BST

Britain will continue to assist Syria's rebels, despite 'deeply unsavoury' elements within the anti-Assad forces, but Parliament will be given a vote if the UK decides to arm the rebels, David Cameron has said.

In an interview with Sky News presenter Dermot Murnaghan to be broadcast on Sunday, the Prime Minister was asked if it was "copper-bottomed" that Parliament would be given a vote.

“Basically yes, we've said that,” the Prime Minister added, but when probed on whether parliament could refuse to arm the rebels, he continued: "We haven’t made a decision, so the whole issue doesn’t really arise. But I supported having a vote on the Iraq war.

syria

"As prime minister I made sure there was a vote on the action we took in Libya. I think parliament should have a say about these things. I can’t really go further than that.”

He admitted there are "elements of the Syrian opposition that are deeply unsavoury, that are very dangerous, very extremist and i want nothing to do with them. I'd like them driven out of Syria - they're linked to al Qaeda.

"But there are elements of the Syrian opposition who want to see a free democratic, pluralistic Syria that respects the rights of minorities including Christians and we should be working with them - we are working with them."

If Britain does not work with the more progressive elements of the Syria opposition "then we can’t be surprised if the only elements of the Syrian opposition that are getting, that are actually making any progress in Syria are the ones that we don’t approve of," Cameron said.

"So what is Britain doing today - so people at home can understand: with Americans, French, with other allies in the gulf - we're training, we're assisting, we're giving non-lethal support - things like vehicles to the genuine Syrian opposition, and trying to help them.

"Because after all they are trying to defend their communities against appalling attacks, including, let’s be clear, chemical weapon attacks. President Assad is now guilty of the most appalling crimes against his people - 90,000 people dead and some of them through the use of appalling chemical weapons."

Former prime minister Tony Blair has urged the UK to intervene in Syria to prevent "catastrophic consequences", , in an interview with The Times.

"This is no longer a civil war between fractions within Syria. We should be taking a more interventionist line.

"You don't have to send in troops, but the international community should think about installing no-fly zones."

The peace envoy added that the use of chemical weapons and intervention of Hezbollah, at the instigation of Iran, has "completely changed the game".

Last night Cameron discussed the situation in Syria in an hour-long video conference with President Barack Obama, French president Francois Hollande, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian prime minister Enrico Letta ahead of next week's G8 summit in Lough Erne.

Cameron told the BBC that Syria would be "up front and centre" at the G8 summit of world leaders in Northern Ireland next week.

You can watch the full interview with Prime Minister, David Cameron on Murnaghan on Sky News tomorrow from 10am