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Members of Parliament narrowly voted against a possible strike on Syria even if the UN concludes chemical weapons were used.
British Prime Minister David Cameron lost a symbolic but important parliamentary vote on Thursday night meant to pave the way for Britain to join a looming military strike on Syria.
Members of parliament voted against a possible military strike by 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes.
The vote was nonbinding but Cameron said he will respect the will of the people.
"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 will act accordingly," Cameron said after the vote was read.
The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq after faulty reports of chemical weapons use has left the British people angry and wary of another strike.
Cameron acknowledged past mistakes but said that should not "paralyze our ability to stand up for what is right."
"We must not be so afraid of doing anything, that we end up doing nothing. Let me repeat again, there will be no action without a further vote in this House of Commons, but on this issue Britain should not stand aside," he said Thursday.
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MPs rejected a possible military strike even if it was supported by evidence from United Nations weapons inspectors that chemical weapons had been used, according to the BBC.
UN inspectors are currently in Syria investigating reports that chemical weapons were used on August 21, killing at least 355 people.
After the vote on Thursday, British defense secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC that Britain would not take part in any military action against Syria.
"I hoped we would carry the argument but we understand there is a deep well of suspicion about involvement in the Middle East," Hammond said.
The United States, a key ally, would be disappointed that Britain "will not be involved," he added, but said: "I don't expect that the lack of British participation will stop any action."
Prime Minister David Cameron reacts to the vote count against a military strike in Syria:
Reuters contributed to this report.