Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Britain and allies considering response to poison gas attack, says Theresa May

The PM’s comments on Syria came after US President Donald Trump said ‘nothing’s off the table’.

Prime Minister Theresa May alongside Danish prime minister Lars Rasmussen (Harriet Line/PA)
Prime Minister Theresa May alongside Danish prime minister Lars Rasmussen (Harriet Line/PA)

Theresa May has said the UK and allies are considering any action that is necessary in the wake of the poisoned gas attack in Syria.

The Prime Minister’s comments came after US President Donald Trump said he would meet military advisers to look at options and stated that “nothing’s off the table”.

Mr Trump said on Monday he would decide on a US response to the apparent chemical weapons attack that killed at least 40 people, including children, “probably by the end of today”.

Asked if the UK would join any US-led military action in Syria, Mrs May said during a visit to Sweden: “What we are currently doing is working urgently with our allies to assess what has happened here.

“This has been an absolutely barbaric attack that has taken place.

Maps alleged poison gas attack in Syria

“And, if it is clear that it is the responsibility of the Assad regime, it’s yet another example of the callous and brutal way in which he’s been treating his people.

“And we are clear that those responsible should be held to account.

“We … are working urgently with our allies to asses what has happened. But, we are also working with our allies on any action that is necessary.”

Mr Trump condemned the “heinous attack” which occurred on Saturday, saying: “It was an atrocious attack. It was horrible.”

Everybody's going to pay a price - he will, everybody will Donald Trump on Vladimir Putin

Mr Trump said the US is still investigating the possible involvement of the Iranian and Russian governments in the strike.

“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” he said.

He added of Russian President Vladimir Putin, “everybody’s going to pay a price – he will, everybody will”.

An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council is being held on Monday in response to the attack.

Earlier, Mrs May said Russia must be “held to account” alongside Syria if Bashar Assad’s regime is found to be responsible for the poison gas attack in Douma.

Mrs May warned Russia, a supporter of the Syrian government, that it will face repercussions as well as Assad.

At a press conference during a visit to Denmark, she said: “If they are found to be responsible, the regime and its backers, including Russia, must be held to account.”

The PM said the attack in Douma was part of a “troubling wider pattern of acts of aggression” and abuse of international norms on the use of chemical weapons.

Russia’s repeated use of its veto at the UN has “enabled” international rules on chemical weapons attacks to be broken and investigations hampered, the premier said.

“This must stop,” she added.

Mrs May said the case of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury showed “similar recklessness last month with the use of chemical weapons” .

“The UK’s case for holding Russia responsible for the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal is clear,” she added.

“No other country has a combination of the capability, the intent and the motive to carry out such an act.”

Increasingly hostile Russian actions pose a threat on a number of fronts, including cyber espionage, she said.

The attack in Douma occurred late on Saturday amid a resumed offensive by Syrian government forces after the collapse of a truce with the Army of Islam rebel group.

Syrian opposition activists and rescuers said poison gas was used on the rebel-held town near the capital, an allegation strongly denied by the Assad government.

Families were reportedly found suffocated in their homes and shelters, with foam on their mouths.

Reports suggested more than 500 people, mostly women and children, were brought to medical centres with difficulty breathing, foaming at the mouth, and burning sensations in the eyes.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in February that Britain should consider joining military action against Assad’s regime if there is fresh “incontrovertible” evidence he has used chemical weapons against his own people.

After intense diplomatic activity on Sunday, the US, UK and France were among countries that called for the emergency UN meeting.

Mr Trump branded Assad an “animal” in a series of posts on Twitter.

He said: “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay.”

The attack comes almost exactly a year after a chemical atrocity in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people.

That attack prompted the US to launch several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base.

Russia and Syria have blamed Israel for an attack on a Syrian military airport on Monday that reportedly killed at least 14 people.

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph