UK min­is­ters back ac­tion on chem­i­cal weapon use

Cyprus Today - - UK -

BRI­TISH Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May won back­ing from her se­nior min­is­ters to take un­spec­i­fied ac­tion with the United States and France to de­ter fur­ther use of chem­i­cal weapons by Syria af­ter a sus­pected poi­son gas at­tack on civil­ians.

Mrs May re­called the min­is­ters from their Easter hol­i­day for the meet­ing in Down­ing Street to dis­cuss Bri­tain’s re­sponse to a chem­i­cal at­tack in the Syr­ian town of Douma near Da­m­as­cus, that she has cast as a bar­baric at­tack that can­not go un­chal­lenged.

Mrs May told her se­nior min­is­ters on Thurs­day that the at­tack in Douma showed a “deeply con­cern­ing” ero­sion of in­ter­na­tional le­gal norms bar­ring the use of chem­i­cal weapons.

“Cab­i­net agreed on the need to take ac­tion to al­le­vi­ate hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­tress and to de­ter the fur­ther use of chem­i­cal weapons by the As­sad regime,” a spokesman for the prime min­is­ter said in a state­ment af­ter the meet­ing.

Min­is­ters also agreed that Mrs May should con­tinue to work with the United States and France to come up with the right re­sponse.

The state­ment made no spe­cific ref­er­ence to mil­i­tary ac­tion.

The BBC said Mrs May was ready to give the goa­head for Bri­tain to take part in ac­tion led by the United States without seek­ing prior ap­proval from par­lia­ment. Down­ing Street spokes­men re­peat­edly de­clined to com­ment on that re­port.

“The chem­i­cal weapons at­tack that took place on Satur­day in Douma in Syria was a shock­ing and bar­baric act,” Mrs May told re­porters on Wed­nes­day. “All the in­di­ca­tions are that the Syr­ian regime was re­spon­si­ble.”

Mrs May is not obliged to win par­lia­ment’s ap­proval, but a non-bind­ing 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 scep­ti­cal of deep­en­ing in­volve­ment in the Syr­ian con­flict.

Op­po­si­tion Labour Party leader Jeremy Cor­byn said par­lia­ment should be con­sulted be­fore Mrs May ap­proved 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?” Mr Cor­byn said.

A YouGov poll pub­lished on Thurs­day showed just one in five Bri­tish vot­ers sup­ported a mis­sile strike on Syria. The poll showed 43 per cent of vot­ers op­posed such a strike and 34 per cent did not know what should be done.

Bri­tain has been launch­ing air strikes in Syria from its mil­i­tary base in South Cyprus, but only against tar­gets linked to the Is­lamic State mil­i­tant group.

Par­lia­ment voted down Bri­tish mil­i­tary ac­tion against Mr As­sad’s gov­ern­ment in 2013, in an em­bar­rass­ment for Mrs May’s pre­de­ces­sor, David Cameron. That then de­terred the US ad­min­is­tra­tion of Barack Obama from sim­i­lar ac­tion. Rus­sia en­voy says he ‘can­not ex­clude’ war, p25

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