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The New Arab

UK govt agrees on 'need to take action' over Syria

Theresa May called for military action in Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 April, 2018

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The office of British Prime Minister Theresa May said a cabinet meeting resulted in an agreement on the "need to take action" alongside US and French allies in war-torn Syria.
The British government agreed on the "need to take action" alongside the US and France over a chemical weapons attack in Syria, Prime Minister Theresa May's office said on Thursday, despite divisions in a country still haunted by its involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq.

"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," Downing Street said after May held an emergency meeting with her top team.

Ministers "agreed the prime minister should continue to work with allies in the United States and France to coordinate an international response," May's office added.

Pressure has been growing on Bashar al-Assad's regime and its Russian backers since an alleged chemical attack against the rebel-held town of Douma on Saturday that killed at least 40 people and injured 1,000 others.

The British government said the deadly raid was "a shocking and barbaric act" which killed people "in the most appalling and inhumane way".

"Cabinet agreed that the Assad regime has a track record of the use of chemical weapons and it is highly likely that the regime is responsible for Saturday's attack," Downing Street said.

Britain is currently part of a US-led coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and has conducted more than 1,700 such attacks.

The mission was only allowed after approval by MPs - they backed military action in Iraq in September 2014, and in Syria a year later, strictly limiting strikes to IS targets.

Action against the Syrian regime itself was ruled out in a parliamentary vote in 2013, and many MPs have called for a vote before any action this time.

Global response

The London meeting came as US President Donald Trump weighed his military options.

France also warned it had "proof" the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons, and would respond to it "at a time of our choosing."

Germany's Angela Merkel said it was "obvious" that Syria had failed to eradicate its chemical arsenal as it had earlier claimed.

But not all world leaders are keen on intervention.

On Thursday, Egyptian diplomatic sources told The New Arab that Cairo objects to military intervention in Syria and has ordered its military personnel there to abandon their posts.

"A strike will only benefit extremist groups and weaken the Syrian regime's efforts to take back territory from these groups," the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

Egyptian foreign ministry officials have been contacting their US counterparts in a bid to prevent a seemingly imminent military strike against the Syrian regime, according to the sources.

"Cairo has ordered its military experts in the country to leave military bases," they added.

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