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English won't rule out NZ help in Syria

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/04/2017
Bill English © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Bill English

Prime Minister Bill English says he won't rule out New Zealand getting involved in a potential conflict in Syria, but says the government would be "pretty cautious" about such a move.

The government has said it "understands" the reasoning behind last week's US strike on a Syrian military air base near Homs in response to a chemical weapon attack.

Asked whether New Zealand would consider giving military assistance in the event of further conflict in Syria, Mr English on Monday told TVNZ he could not completely rule out the possibility.

"We haven't had any requests and so far no indication there will be a request. If there was one we'd consider it, but we'd be pretty cautious," he said.

"I wouldn't rule it out completely, but as I said we'd be quite cautious".

Mr English said the government "supported that response to the chemical attacks" but did not believe there were indications tension between the US and Russia would turn into "something bigger".

The New Zealand government last week confirmed it was told in advance of US plans to bomb the Syrian air base.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the government understood why the US launched dozens of cruise missile strikes against the facility controlled by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's forces.

"In the absence of an adequate response from the United Nations Security Council, we can understand why the United States has taken targeted unilateral action to try and prevent further such attacks by the Syrian regime."

The cruise missile strike was the toughest direct US action yet in Syria's six-year-old civil war and raises the risk of confrontation with Russia and Iran - Assad's two main military backers.

The Green Party have condemned the attack while a UN Security Council investigation is underway.

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