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Theresa May insists Syria had to be punished for using chemical weapons

Birmingham Mail logo Birmingham Mail 16/04/2018 Jonathan Walker

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 Prime Minster Theresa May has insisted Syria had to be punished for using chemical weapons, as she defended her decision to order UK forces to join in military action.

She said: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised - either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.”

And Mrs May rejected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that she was simply taking orders from US President Donald Trump.

The Prime Minister said: “We have not done this because President Trump asked us to do so.

Related: May and Corbyn clash in Commons over Syria air strikes (ITN News)

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“We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do.”

The Prime Minister was delivering a statement to the House of Commons after the US, France and UK attacked three sites in Syria over the weekend, in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack against civilians in the Syrian city of Douma.

They insist the Government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia, was responsible for the chemical weapon use.

Labour says it could have been the work of Syrian rebels.

And Labour is also calling for new laws which would prevent the Government taking military action in the future, without holding a vote in Parliament first.

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Mrs May defended her failure to hold a vote, saying: “We have always been clear that the Government has the right to act quickly in the national interest.

“I am absolutely clear that it is Parliament’s responsibility to hold me to account for such decisions – and Parliament will do so.

“But it is my responsibility as Prime Minster to make these decisions. And I will make them.”

She insisted Syria was to blame for the attack, telling MPs: “Innocent families – seeking shelter in underground bunkers – found dead with foam in their mouths, burns to their eyes and their bodies surrounded by a chlorine-like odour.

“Children gasping for life as chemicals choked their lungs.

“The fact that such an atrocity can take place in our world today is a stain on our humanity.

“And we are clear about who is responsible. A significant body of information – including intelligence – indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack.”

Mrs May said three sites 9n Syria had been hit. They included a centre for the research and development of Syria’s chemical and biological programme, in northern Damascu; bunkers which contained chemical weapons equipment and a storage facility, and a chemical weapons storage site.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Commons that Theresa May “is accountable to this Parliament, not to the whims of the US President”.

He said the attack on Syria was “legally questionable”.

And he suggested the Government of Syria led by President Assad may not be responsible for the chemical weapons attack on Douma.

“Suspicion rightly points to the Assad government” but rebel groups have also used them, he said.

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