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Russia-US tensions: Cabinet gives May the go-ahead for Syria strike 'to deter further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime'

Donald Trump is yet to take a 'final decision' on what action the US will take according to the White House

Samuel Osborne,Chris Baynes
Friday 13 April 2018 00:23 BST
US v Russia on Syria: The story so far

Theresa May's cabinet has agreed on the need to "take action" to deter use of chemical weapons following an emergency meeting at Downing Street.

The prime minister summoned her senior ministers to No 10 to discuss joining the United States and France in possible military strikes against Syria after saying “all the indications” were Bashar al-Assad's was responsible for a suspected nerve agent attack on civilians last weekend.

President Donald Trump had warned Russia of imminent military action in Syria, declaring missiles “will be coming” and denouncing Moscow for standing by Syria’s president, but on Thursday night the White House said that "no final decision" had been made about what Washington will do.

Mr Trump, Ms May and French President Emmanuel Macron have been in regular contact as they plot a course of action, with Mr Macron saying France has "proof" the Syrian government carried out the chemical attack which killed potentially doxens.

It followed the Kremlin's insistence that it would shoot down any missiles and attack their source, in developments that have placed the two global and nuclear superpowers closer to open conflict than at any time since the Cold War.

Our live coverage has ended for now - but read a full account of the day's events in the blog below. Please allow a few seconds for it to load.

Russia has repeatedly warned the West against attacking the infrastructure of Syria's government and army, which is also supported by Iran.

Moscow has said there was no chemical attack in Douma, near the capital Damascus.

Ms May recalled the ministers from their Easter holiday for a special cabinet meeting in Downing Street to discuss Britain’s response to what she has cast as a barbaric attack which cannot go unchallenged.

“The chemical weapons attack that took place on Saturday in Douma in Syria was a shocking and barbaric act,” Ms May said. “All the indications are that the Syrian regime was responsible.”

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had said it intends to send investigators to Douma to look for any evidence of a chemical attack.

Ms May has faced calls to wait for unequivocal proof of a chemical attack by the Assad regime before committing British forces to retaliatory action.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, joined other opposition parties, as well as some Conservative backbenchers, in insisting MPs must be have a say on any British involvement in military action.

However, Ms May faces growing impatience from Washington, after Mr Trump's tweet to say the missiles “will be coming”.

The prime minister is not obliged to win parliament’s approval, but a non-binding constitutional convention to do so has been established since a 2003 vote on joining the US-led invasion of Iraq.

It has been observed in subsequent military deployments in Libya and Iraq.

Britain has been launching air strikes in Syria from its military base in Cyprus, but only against targets linked to Isis.

Parliament voted down British military action against Mr Assad’s government in 2013, in an embarrassment for David Cameron.

The vote deterred Barack Obama’s administration from similar action.

Additional reporting by agencies


Good morning, welcome to The Independent's live blog on Britain's response to the escalating crisis in Syria, which is increasing tensions between the United States and Russia. 

Donald Trump has warned Moscow of imminent military action, declaring missiles "will be coming." 

Ms May recalled her senior ministers from the Easter holiday for an emergency meeting in Downing Street amid signs she is preparing to join the US and France in strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. 

Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 09:34
Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 09:40

No decision has been taken on government action in response to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, the Brexit secretary, David Davis, has said.

Mr Davis said we have "got to make a very careful, very deliberate judgement."

Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 09:50

Theresa May has reportedly ordered British submarines to move within missile range of Syria.

They were preparing for strikes against the Syrian military, which could begin as early as Thursday night, The Daily Telegraph said.

It quoted government sources saying Britain was "doing everything necessary" to be able to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles against military targets in Syria.

Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 09:57

Mr Davis described the situation in Syria as horrific and said the use of chemical weapons is something the world has to prevent.

He added: "But also it is a very, very delicate circumstance, and we've got to make this judgment on a very careful, very deliberate, very well thought-through basis, knowing exactly... how strong the evidence is."

Mr Davis, who voted against taking military action against Bashar al-Assad's government in 2013, suggested he had changed his mind.

He said his decision then was based on a lack of clear evidence and a lack of a clear plan.

"Those two things, I'm assured, we will get an answer to today," he said

Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 10:03

France has said it will decide in the coming days whether to launch a military strike in Syria.

Its president, Emmanuel Macron, would decide whether to launch an attack over the "non-respect of the international convention against chemical weapons," which is a "red line" for France, the country's foreign minister said.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said: "We are very firm... as the president of the Republic said.... this situation can't be tolerated."

Asked about consulting the US, which has also threatened military action, Mr Le Drian said: "France is autonomous in taking its decisions."

Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 10:21
Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 10:28

The Kremlin has said a "de-confliction" telephone line for Syria between the United States and Russia is active and is in use by both sides.

Moscow said Russia is closely following statements from Washington about Syria, but no phone call between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is planned for now. 

It is extremely important to avoid any steps that could threaten to raise tensions, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, told Reuters.

Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 10:34
Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 10:44

Bashar al-Assad has said any possible action by Western states will only cause more instability in the Middle East, Syrian state TV reported.

"With every victory achieved on the field, the voices of some Western states are raised and actions are intensified in an attempt by them to change the course of events ... these voices and any possible action will contribute nothing but an increase in instability in the region, threatening international peace and security," it quoted him saying.

Samuel Osborne12 April 2018 10:53

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