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May criticised for Syria air strikes with Corbyn accusing her of bowing to 'whims of the US president'

The British Prime Minister said, “We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do”.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron faced anger from lawmakers for conducting air strikes with the United States in Syria in both leaders’ first major military actions since coming to power.

May said lawmakers were right to hold her to account for her actions, after the premier proceeded with the strikes without prior parliamentary approval.

“But it is my responsibility as prime minister to make these decisions. And I will make them,” May said of the intervention.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for new legislation to stop governments launching military action without lawmakers’ backing in most circumstances.

“The prime minister is accountable to this parliament, not to the whims of the US president,” he told a packed chamber.

Syria conflict Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking after Prime Minister Theresa May made a statement to MPs in the House of Commons over her decision to launch air strikes against Syria. Source: PA

Following Washington’s military lead remains a sensitive subject in Britain, where memories of participation in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 are still raw.

May, in office since July 2016, rejected the notion that she took orders from US President Donald Trump, saying her decision was based on Britain’s national interest.

“We have not done this because President Trump asked us to do so. We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do,” she said.

Lack of public support 

But a poll showed scant public support for the move.

The poll by Survation for the Mail on Sunday showed 36% in favour of Britain’s participation in the air strikes, 40% against and the remainder undecided.

Of the survey’s 2,060 respondents, 54% also agreed with the statement that May “should have held a parliamentary debate and vote before intervening militarily in Syria”.

May’s speech was followed by a heated debate during which some MPs called on Britain to welcome more Syrian refugees – rejected by May – and continue the diplomatic push to end the seven-year conflict.

Syria conflict Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement to MPs in the House of Commons over her decision to launch air strikes against Syria. Source: PA

Outside the Houses of Parliament, the Stop the War coalition once chaired by Corbyn was due to hold a demonstration.

The group said the strikes “will have done nothing to end the war” and “risked dramatically widening” the conflict.

‘International legitimacy’

In France, Macron has faced similar criticism for attacking Syria without consulting the legislature.

He defended the move as well as his constitutional powers in a TV interview yesterday.

“This mandate is given democratically to the president by the people in the presidential election,” said Macron, who became France’s youngest president in May 2017.

Macron, 40, has been criticised from both right and left.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen has accused Macron of failing to show any evidence on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime to justify the strikes.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of the hard-left France Unbowed party, has also condemned the strikes, while the leader of the centre-right Republicans party, Laurent Wauquiez, said he “did not believe in punitive strikes”.

But at a press conference in Paris today, Macron said France had acted with “international legitimacy”.

He argued that the operation was legitimate despite not being sanctioned by the UN since under a 2013 UN resolution Syria was supposed to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.

© – AFP, 2018

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