UK cabinet gives backing to take action against Syria

Ministers at a cabinet meeting said it was 'highly likely' the Assad regime was responsible for a suspected chemical attack.

The British Cabinet has unanimously backed Theresa May’s warning that Syria’s use of chemical weapons cannot go unchallenged, leaving the way open for British participation in military action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Cabinet ministers agreed "on the need to take action" in Syria to "deter the further use of chemical weapons", Downing Street has said.

Ministers at a cabinet meeting said it was "highly likely" the Assad regime was responsible for a suspected chemical attack.

The Prime minister spoke to Donald Trump by phone within hours of the meeting, with the two leaders agreeing to work closely together on the international response.

During the two-hour cabinet meeting, ministers backed plans to take further action, along with the United States and France, to prevent Assad’s forces from ever launching such an “appalling and inhumane” attack again.

No details of UK involvement in any military action in Syria were mentioned in the Downing Street statement.

But Transport Minister Jo Johnson later stressed: "There has been no decision to take military action at this point."

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Environment Secretary Michael Gove leave the meeting at No 10

There have been calls from opposition parties and some Conservative MPs for Parliament to have a vote beforehand.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused the government of "waiting for instructions" from President Trump and said military action was unlikely to solve the situation in Syria.

He said: "More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life. It will just take more lives and spawn the war elsewhere."

On Thursday, May was also given the backing of her most influential foreign policy backbencher, Tom Tugendhat, to take part in any western strike against Syria without a Commons mandate.

However, Tory backbenchers including Zac Goldsmith have expressed reservations about taking action without a vote.

Trump was also expected to speak to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, about what form the action could take, with the White House saying: “No final decision has been made.”

Although preparations are  being done in secrecy, training exercises were clearly already under way at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in preparation for a possible counterattack by the Russians, close allies of the Syrian regime.

Senior figures from Russia, which provides military support to the Syrian regime, have warned of a Russian response to a US attack.

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