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UK prepared to join strikes against Assad, says foreign secretary

Boris Johnson also suggested that parliamentary approval might not be necessary
Johnson has said it would be 'very difficult' to say no, if the US asked for help (AFP)

The UK is prepared to take part in air strikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, were the US to do so again, the British foreign secretary said on Thursday.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Boris Johnson said that, if asked by the US, "I think it would be very difficult for us to say no."

"I think it would be very difficult if the United States has a proposal to have some sort of action in response to a chemical weapons attack, and if they come to use and ask for our support," Johnson said, "whether it is with submarine-based cruise missiles in the Med or whatever it happens to be … in my view, and I know this is also the view of the prime minister, it would be very difficult for us to say no."

He also suggested that it would not be necessary to seek parliamentary approval to do so.

The UK parliament will soon sit in recess for six weeks, in the run-up to a general election on 8 June.

Asked if going to parliament for approval for strikes was a precondition, Johnson said: "As I say, I think it would be very difficult for us to say no. How exactly we were able to implement would be for the government and the prime minister to decide.

"But if the Americans were once again to be forced by the actions of the Assad regime - and, don't forget, it was Assad who unleashed murder upon his own citizens, weapons that were banned almost 100 years ago - if the Americans choose to act again, and they ask us to help, I think it will be very difficult to say no."

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In 2013, much anticipated US air strikes against Assad positions were called off after the UK's then prime minister David Cameron failed to secure the necessary parliamentary support.

Earlier this month, the US launched cruise missiles at the Shayrat air base in central Syria, in response to a chemical weapons attack earlier in the week, blamed by the West on the Syrian government.

Assad and his allies have consistently denied involvement, but Western intelligence agencies have found that the Syrian government carried out the sarin gas attack in Idlib, killing at least 87 civilians.

"There was unquestionably an attack using sarin gas against innocent civilians," Johnson said on Thursday.