Britain could provide logistical support for US military action against insurgents in Iraq, Cabinet Minister Iain Duncan Smith said.
His comments that “we have got to do what we can” to support the US if Barack Obama takes action against the extremist militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), come amid reports of a Cabinet rift on the issue.
The Work and Pensions Secretary suggested support could take the form of supply and maintenance, but ruled out military intervention by British forces.
Last week the US president said he was prepared to take “targeted and precise” action in Iraq, and up to 300 military advisers to help train and advise Iraqi forces will be deployed to the country.
Mr Duncan Smith, Tory leader at the time of the Iraq War, said: “We have to do what we can to support the Americans. The Government has said it’s not going to be doing any airstrikes or putting soldiers into Iraq but I think there are lots of other things we can do to help support them – make sure they get the right spare parts and support in maintaining those kind of aircraft and equipment and also support the Americans where they need it in terms of supply, etc.”
Asked if British bases could be used, Mr Duncan Smith pointed out that an “awful lot of Iraq” was not being run by Isis, indicating that bases in that country could be used.
But he added: “The Government’s position has been quite clearly that we will do what we can to support what the Americans want to do in terms of this. We are not going to be, as I understand it, joining them. We should be in no doubt that Isis are a really nasty, brutal operation.”
The comments came as The Sunday Times reported that there was a split within the Government over how much support the UK should be prepared to offer.
Opposition to providing support was being led by Tory Minister Ken Clarke, backed by Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi.
Key towns fall to insurgents: Page 14.