May blasts Syria, Rus­sia

Bri­tish prime min­is­ter de­fends mil­i­tary airstrikes


Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May told restive law­mak­ers on Mon­day that mil­i­tary airstrikes against Syria were right both legally and morally, and ac­cused Syria and its ally Rus­sia of at­tempt­ing to coverup ev­i­dence of a deadly chem­i­cal weapons at­tack.

May faced down her do­mes­tic crit­ics as Euro­pean Union for­eign ministers united to say they un­der­stood the need for the airstrikes and called for a new push for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the war in Syria.

Royal Air Force jets joined Amer­i­can and French war­planes and ships in hit­ting tar­gets in Syria early Satur­day in re­sponse to a re­ported chem­i­cal at­tack by the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment in the town of Douma.

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment is not legally bound to seek law­mak­ers’ ap­proval for mil­i­tary strikes, al­though it is cus­tom­ary to do so.

May told law­mak­ers in the House of Com­mons that con­sult­ing them would have been im­prac­ti­cal, both be­cause Par­lia­ment was on a spring break un­til Mon­day and be­cause some of the in­tel­li­gence be­hind the de­ci­sion was clas­si­fied.

“We have al­ways been clear that the gov­ern­ment has the right to act quickly in the na­tional in­ter­est,” May said, call­ing the mil­i­tary ac­tion “not just morally right but also legally right.”

“We can­not al­low the use of chem­i­cal weapons to be­come nor­mal­ized, ei­ther within Syria, on the streets of the U.K., or else­where,” May said - link­ing the chem­i­cal at­tack in Syria with the poi­son­ing of a for­mer Rus­sian spy and his daugh­ter last month with a mil­i­tary­grade nerve agent in the English city of Sal­is­bury.

Syria and its backer Rus­sia have both de­nied that Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces car­ried out the Douma gas at­tack, sug­gest­ing it may have been staged to im­pli­cate them.

May said the pres­ence of he­li­copters and the use of bar­rel bombs pointed the fin­ger of blame squarely at the gov­ern­ment of Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad. She ac­cused Syria, aided by Rus­sia, of try­ing to block an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the gas at­tack be­ing done by the in­ter­na­tional chem­i­cal weapons watch­dog.

“The Syr­ian regime has re­port­edly been at­tempt­ing to con­ceal the ev­i­dence by search­ing evac­uees from Douma to en­sure sam­ples are not be­ing smug­gled from this area. And a wider op­er­a­tion to con­ceal the facts of the at­tack is un­der­way, sup­ported by the Rus­sians,” she said.


Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice of­fi­cers check a weapons fac­tory left be­hind by mem­bers of the Army of Is­lam group, in the town of Douma, the site of a sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons at­tack, near Da­m­as­cus, Syria, Mon­day.

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