Conflict looms as May and Trump agree chemical weapon use in Syria must not go unchallenged

File picture: Theresa May and Donald Trump
File picture: Theresa May and Donald Trump

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THERESA May and Donald Trump have agreed that the use of chemical weapons must not go unchallenged after the Prime Minister won the backing of her Cabinet for action to prevent their further use in Syria.

The two leaders also said there was a need ‘to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime’, as they pledged to work together on the international response to the suspected chemical weapons attack.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused the government of ‘waiting for instructions’ from the US and that military intervention risks ‘escalating an already devastating conflict’.

Ministers have said it is ‘highly likely’ Syrian president Bashar Assad was responsible for the attack on Saturday on the rebel-held town of Douma which reportedly left dozens dead and that there was agreement around the Cabinet table that such actions should not go ‘unchallenged’.

Mrs May and president Trump spoke hours after this meeting and reiterated the use of chemical weapons should not be tolerated.

The largest US air and naval strike force since the 2003 Iraq war was said to be heading towards Syria, according to reports in The Times, paving the way for strikes within the next three days.

Russia has been granted a request for the United Nations Security Council to meet on Friday for fresh discussions on the threat to international peace from air strikes on Syria.

The statement released by Downing Street after yesterday’s cabinet meeting made no direct reference to military action, but will be seen as a signal Britain would be prepared to join any US-led air strikes against the regime should the Americans decide to go ahead – putting it on a potential collision course with Assad’s principal backer, Russia.

In a statement released on last night, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: ‘The prime minister spoke to President Trump about Syria this evening.

‘They agreed that the Assad regime had established a pattern of dangerous behaviour in relation to the use of chemical weapons.

‘They agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged, and on the need to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

‘They agreed to keep working closely together on the international response.’

But Mr Corbyn said: ‘Further UK military intervention in Syria’s appalling multi-sided war risks escalating an already devastating conflict.

‘The government appears to be waiting for instructions from president Donald Trump on how to proceed. But the US administration is giving alarmingly contradictory signals.

‘Even US defence secretary James Mattis has said we ‘don’t have evidence’ and warned further military action could ‘escalate out of control’.’