Fri, Apr 13, 2018 - Page 1 News List

UK’s May mulls joining the US, France on Syria

Reuters, LONDON and PARIS

A Syrian soldier walks with a woman searching for her home in a destroyed neighbourhood in the former rebel-held town of Zamalka in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday summoned her senior ministers to a special Cabinet meeting to discuss joining the US and France in possible military action against Syria after a suspected poison gas attack on civilians.

After warning Russia on Wednesday of imminent US military action in Syria, US President Donald Trump yesterday said that a possible military strike against Syria “could be very soon or not so soon at all.”

Russia has warned the West against attacking its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is also supported by Iran, saying that there is no evidence of a chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma near Damascus.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday said France has proof the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack and would decide whether to strike back when all the necessary information has been gathered.

“Our teams have been working on this all week and we will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective,” Macron told broadcaster TF1.

Paris has established that al-Assad’s government on Saturday last week used chemical weapons, including chlorine, in Douma, he said, but did not provide any details on the evidence or how it was acquired.

France wants to remove the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capabilities, Macron said.

Asked whether those would be the targets of French strikes he said: “When we decide it, and once we have verified all the information.”

The priority was to avoid an escalation across the region, he added.

“France will not allow any escalation that could harm the stability of the region as a whole, but we can’t let regimes that think they can do everything they want, including the worst things that violate international law, to act,” Macron said.

The BBC said May was ready to give the go-ahead for Britain to take part in action led by the US without seeking prior approval from parliament.

Downing Street spokesmen repeatedly declined to comment on that report.

May recalled the ministers from their Easter holiday for the meeting at 3:30pm in Downing Street to discuss Britain’s response to what she has cast as a barbaric attack that cannot go unchallenged.

“The situation in Syria is horrific, the use of chemical weapons is something the world has to prevent,” British Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis said. “But also it’s a very, very delicate circumstance and we’ve got to make this judgement on a very careful, very deliberate, very well thought through basis.”

The rising tension over the Douma attack demonstrates the volatile nature of the Syrian civil war, which started in March 2011 as an uprising against al-Assad, but is now a proxy conflict involving a number of world and regional powers and a myriad of insurgent groups.

May is not obliged to win parliament’s approval, but a nonbinding constitutional convention to do so has been established since a 2003 vote on joining the US-led invasion of Iraq.

It has been observed in subsequent military deployments in Libya and Iraq, and many British lawmakers and voters are deeply skeptical of deepening involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said parliament should be consulted before May approves military action.

“Just imagine the scenario if an American missile shoots down a Russian plane, or vice-a-versa — where do we go from there?” Corbyn said.

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