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May tells Parliament UK acted in 'national interest' over Syria strikes

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May tells Parliament UK acted in 'national interest' over Syria strikes

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Theresa May is appearing in Parliament to explain Saturday’s airstrikes on Syrian targets in retaliation for the suspected use of chemical weapons by President al-Assad’s regime.

The British prime minister has been criticised for her decision to join the United States and France in launching military action without seeking parliamentary approval.

Her statement is due to be followed by an emergency debate, offering MPs several hours to discuss the action. However, her critics say this is an attempt to stop a meaningful vote.

May's appearance was delayed to allow for an emergency question and answer session over an immigration issue.

May's statement:

  • Fact that such atrocity takes place is a “stain on our humanity”
  • More than 75 people killed and up to 500 injured in attack in Douma
  • A significant body of evidence suggests the Syrian regime was responsible. Barrel bombs were dropped by helicopters – the opposition does not have helicopters; "no other group" could have done it

  • Russia is supporting an attempt to conceal what happened

  • The airstrikes followed a series of other chemical weapons attacks; the UK judged the Syrian government would continue to use them

  • Syrian government had failed to act on pledge to abandon chemical weapons

  • The airstrikes were justified legally; targets were locations where chemical weapons stockpiled; Russia did not report any losses to personnel or equipment

  • UK did not wait for OPCW investigation to end as it has been obstructed and attacks would have continued

  • UK was not just following orders from America but because it was in "our national interest"; we must not allow these weapons to become normalised

  • Action was not about intervening in the war in Syria or seeking regime change

  • Parliament was not recalled as action was needed urgently; the government has the right to act alone and account to Parliament later

  • UK right to act to stand up for global rules and standards

The opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn replied to the prime minister's statement, accusing May of responding to the "whims of the US president", adding that he believed the action was "legally questionable".

There should be legislation to ensure parliamentary approval for military action, added.

Corbyn said chemical weapons had been used by other groups in the Syrian conflict. Pressure should be put on Russia and Syria to allow OPCW inspectors access to the Douma site.

The UK government's legal justification for the military action is available here.

Watch Theresa May's full statement and the response from Jeremy Corbyn below: