Tue | Sep 25, 2018

UK's May tells lawmakers: Syria strikes were legal and moral

Published:Monday | April 16, 2018 | 5:18 PM
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street to make a statement to MPs in the House of Commons in London, Monday April 16, 2018 over her decision to launch air strikes against Syria.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has told restive lawmakers that military air strikes on Syria were right both legally and morally.

May has also accused Syria and its ally Russia of attempting to cover up evidence of a deadly chemical weapons attack.

May faced down her domestic critics as France's premier defended the "proportionate" response to the use of chemical weapons.

European Union foreign ministers united to say they understood the need for the air strikes and called for a new push for a political solution to the war in Syria.

British 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.

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IN PHOTO: Demonstrators take part in a protest organised by the Stop the War coalition against the British government carrying out air strikes on targets in Syria.

The British government is not legally bound to seek Parliament's approval for military strikes, although it is customary to do so, and many lawmakers expressed anger that they were not consulted.

May told legislators in the House of Commons that seeking their approval 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 normalised, 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 military-grade nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury.

Syria and 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 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.

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