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DUP to back air strikes in Syria

Party supports escalation of attacks on Isis provided strategy is ‘effective’

By Joe Churcher and Sam Dean

The DUP has signalled that it will back air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) as the Government seeks support for military intervention in Syria.

A detailed case for escalating force will be set out to the Commons this week by the Prime Minister in the wake of the murders of 130 people on the streets of Paris by the Islamist extremists.

Mr Cameron will visit the city today for talks with president Francois Hollande - as attention switched to the Belgian capital Brussels, which is in lockdown as the manhunt continues for one of the attackers.

In a boost to Mr Cameron's chances of securing a Commons majority, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds signalled its eight MPs were willing to back air strikes.

"We have always said we can back British military force, provided it is realistic and in the national interest," he said.

"The scene is set for our action being just that. It falls to David Cameron to show us that it will be. Not least, he will need to show that we will get right the things we got wrong in Libya."

The UN security council resolution backing action against Isis "suggests that all the major military powers can finally start to fight the real enemy in Syria", he said. "British force and British service personnel have to be employed only when doing so promises real results.

"I trust that the Prime Minister will set out this week how we will most effectively do this with like-minded powers. And I anticipate discussing this matter with him."

Earlier, George Osborne warned that Western nations are seeing "the price of not getting involved" in Syria.

The Chancellor declined to be drawn on reports that a vote could be held within weeks, but said he believed the atrocities - and unanimous UN Security Council backing for countries to take "all necessary measures" - were swaying the argument.

Any vote against allowing the RAF - currently bombing only in Iraq - to target Isis over the border in Syria would be "a publicity coup" for the jihadists, he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

Ministers say there will be no vote until they are confident of the support of sufficient opposition MPs to demonstrate a clear parliamentary will.

"This week we are going to step up our diplomatic efforts, our humanitarian efforts and make the case for a greater military effort against Isis," Mr Osborne said.

Mr Cameron's case will come in the form of a response to a report by the Commons foreign affairs committee which expressed severe reservations about the coherence of the Government's case.

Asked if he believed opinion had been hardened by the Paris attacks, Mr Osborne said: "I suspect that it is changing the views of those who have previously opposed Britain getting involved, and British air strikes in Syria, but let's see.

"We are not going to go to the House of Commons and lose again. That would be a publicity coup for Isis, that would send a terrible message about Britain's role in the world."

Meanwhile, the Great Britain tennis team have delayed their departure for next week's Davis Cup final in Belgium.

The Belgian government warned of possible Paris-style attacks and raised the threat alert to the highest setting - a decision prime minister Charles Michel said was "based on quite precise information about the risk of an attack".

The Davis Cup final is being held in the city of Ghent, just 35 miles north-east of Brussels.

The Foreign Office has updated its guidance for Belgium, advising visitors not to go to places with large numbers of people.

More than 1,000 British fans are expected to support the team, which includes Andy Murray, as they take on Belgium, and the 13,000-seat Flanders Expo has been sold out for all three days of the final.

At least one suspect from the Paris attacks remains on the run and was last seen crossing the border into Belgium.

Brussels kept its subways and underground trams closed for a second day yesterday. All the usual markets in Brussels were cancelled while it was confirmed last night that the metro and the country's schools would be closed today.

Belfast Telegraph

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