Syria Uprising: Cameron To Chair National Security Council Meeting

Prime Minister David Cameron has chaired a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the deteriorating situation in Syria.

A new round of EU sanctions against Syria is expected to be agreed on 27 February, and could include a freeze on Syria's central bank assets and a ban on trade in precious metals.

Ahead of the NSC meeting, Foreign Secretary William Hague briefed cabinet ministers on developments in the country.

The situation there has deteriorated following Russia and China's veto of a United Nations resolution designed to end President Bashar al-Assad's bloody crackdown against protesters.

Violence has escalated since the UN process hit the buffers, with regime forces this morning reported to be using tanks and machine guns in an effort to seize control of rebel strongholds in the city of Homs.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was today visiting Syrian capital Damascus in what Moscow said was part of an effort to "seek the swiftest stabilisation of the situation in Syria on the basis of the swiftest implementation of democratic reforms whose time has come".

He was given a warm welcome by thousands of flag-waving Assad loyalists who thronged the streets to express gratitude for Moscow's supportive stance.

Pro Syrian regime supporters wave to the Russian foreign minister

According to Russian news agency RIA, Lavrov told the Syrian president: "Every leader of every country must be aware of his share of responsibility. You are aware of yours.

"It is in our interests for Arab peoples to live in peace and agreement."

Hague yesterday condemned the Russian and Chinese vetoes as "a betrayal of the Syrian people" and pledged that the UK would seek other means of putting pressure on the Assad regime, including the creation of an international Friends of Syria group.

France and Italy today recalled their ambassadors from Syria for consultations, a day after Britain took the same step and the US closed down its embassy in Damascus.