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PM urges resolve in battle with IS


Barack Obama, secretary of state John Kerry, and other officials, meet the representatives of Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Iraq in New York

Barack Obama, secretary of state John Kerry, and other officials, meet the representatives of Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Iraq in New York

Barack Obama, secretary of state John Kerry, and other officials, meet the representatives of Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Iraq in New York

British warplanes will take part in US-led airstrikes against the "psychopathic, murderous, brutal" fighters of the Islamic State terror group, David Cameron has announced.

In what amounted to a rallying cry to MPs to back to his plan when Parliament is recalled on Friday, the Prime Minister warned that Britain must not be so "frozen with fear" of repeating the mistakes of the Iraq War that it fails to take on the jihadi militants.

Amid speculation that RAF planes could join US and French allies in bombarding IS targets as early as this weekend, Mr Cameron declined to discuss when the operation might begin or how long the operation would last, but acknowledged that it could take "quite a long time".

He said he was "confident" of receiving support from the three major parties in Friday's parliamentary vote, avoiding the embarrassment of a repeat of last year's defeat over plans to bomb Syria.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Mr Cameron made clear that he envisages British warplanes joining coalition airstrikes within Iraq, after receiving a request for military help from the country's new prime minister Haider Abadi, and that there would be no "boots on the ground".

Islamic State - also known as Isis or Isil - posed a "clear and present danger to the United Kingdom" and the Baghdad government's invitation gave "a clear legal base" for British military action, he said.

But he did not rule out later extending operations to IS strongholds in Syria - targeted by the US and its allies for the first time on Monday - saying that this would happen only after a separate debate and vote in Parliament.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly tonight, Mr Cameron was expected to acknowledge the wariness felt by many in the international community over military action in Iraq, following the decade of violence which followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

But he was expected to say it was vital to "learn the right lessons - Yes to careful preparation; no to rushing to join a conflict without a clear plan."

Mr Cameron was due to warn: "We must not be so frozen with fear that we don't do anything at all.

"Isolation and withdrawing from a problem like Isil will only make things worse.

"We must not allow past mistakes to become an excuse for indifference or inaction."

Action against IS should be "comprehensive, intelligent and inclusive", working with partners in the region, potentially including Iran - whose president Hassan Rouhani he met for historic talks at the UN.

And he was expected to add: "We should be uncompromising, using all the means at our disposal - including military force - to hunt down these extremists."

Addressing the fears expressed by the family of British hostage Alan Henning, who have said UK air strikes could increase the danger to his life, Mr Cameron said: "It's a desperate situation, but let's be clear about two things.

"One is that we are dealing with psychopathic, murderous, brutal people who will stop at nothing to carry out dreadful acts on these hostages.

"And secondly, it's very important that we do the right thing as a country and we stick to the path that I set out some weeks ago about having a comprehensive strategy including all the elements at our disposal - humanitarian aid, diplomacy and also, where appropriate, military action. That's the way in which we are proceeding."

Mr Cameron's comments came after US president Barack Obama issued a plea to the international community to come together to "dismantle this network of death".

Speaking to the General Assembly, Mr Obama said that IS understood only "the language of force" and called on those who have joined up to fight with the group - believed to include several hundred Britons - to "leave the battlefield while they can".

The president condemned atrocities against women and religious minorities in IS-controlled areas and described the beheading of hostages including British aid worker David Haines as "the most horrific crimes imaginable".

"No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning - no negotiation - with this brand of evil," said Mr Obama.

"The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death."

Asked whether wanted to see justice served on the Briton, nicknamed "jihadi John", believed to be responsible for three beheadings, Mr Cameron told reporters: "I'm not sure I can describe in words what I'd like to happen to him ... He should see justice one way or another."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband each confirmed that they would be backing the PM's call for military action in Friday's vote.

Mr Miliband - who spoke with Mr Cameron before the recall was announced and has been briefed by national security officials - said: "We will learn the lessons of the past - but we will not turn away from threats to our national interest."

Mr Cameron was backing a UN resolution tabled by the US, to stem the flow of foreign fighters enlisting in conflicts overseas, including by withholding passports and freezing assets.

Mr Cameron and Mr Abadi appeared briefly before the cameras at the beginning of their discussions in a UK mission office in the UN building.

As the pair spoke in muted tones, Mr Cameron could be heard to say: "We are in total agreement."

Speaking earlier in support of Mr Obama's proposed measures against foreign fighters, Mr Cameron told the Security Council that the conflict in Iraq and Syria was "shocking the world with its barbarity".

"The cruelty being meted out - beheadings, eyes being gouged out, rape - is horrific," he said. "It is literally medieval in character.

"But one of the most disturbing aspects is how this conflict is sucking in our own young people, from modern, prosperous societies.

"The threat to our security from foreign fighters is far greater today that it has ever been in previous conflicts."

The 12,000-plus recruits - including 500 Britons - who have flocked from around the world to join Islamic State were "a small army, brainwashed and turned into fanatics determined to harm their own countries", he said.

The international community should step up efforts to prevent attacks and hunt down those who are planning them, and to "defeat the poisonous ideology of extremism that is the root cause of this terrorist threat", said Mr Cameron.

Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve said he believed there were circumstances that would allow the UK to intervene in Syria.

He told BBC Two's Newsnight: "I think Syria is more complicated.

"There are grounds on which we could properly intervene within Syria - to begin with, there's no doubt the Iraqi government, if they are being attacked from across the Syrian border by IS, are entitled to go across into Syria in order to stop those attacks."

Asked if he thought the UK could take action in Syria, Mr Grieve said: "I think that there's a proper basis for the United Kingdom to go into Syria but I want to emphasise that that base has to be established.

"I don't have the intelligence and so quite apart from anything else it would be the law officers who would have to consider that and give advice and wouldn't wish in any way to pre-judge that issue.

"But there are circumstances in which, in my view, it would be proper to intervene in Syria."

Former United Nations deputy secretary general Lord Malloch-Brown, asked if it was wrong to isolate Iraq and Syria, told the same programme: "I think we are. I think the risk of striking into Syria is that we again, like Libya or like with Iraq in 2003, that a limited purpose gets dragged into a bigger regime change purpose and that would be wrong.

"But in terms of doing the job now, the surgical strikes against Isis in order to reduce and contain its military effectiveness, I think we're unnecessarily tying a hand our back."

Rory Stewart, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said it was "likely" Parliament would vote for air strikes in Iraq.

On whether it is possible to defeat IS, the Conservative MP told Newsnight: "It's going to be very, very difficult.

"If everybody says the two things you need are the regional players on side and the local population against them, there's not much sign of that yet moving."

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