UK ‘not at stage’ of joining air strikes against IS militants in Syria

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David Cameron welcomes Barack Obama’s plans to authorise air strikes against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria but Britain is “not at the stage” joining the military action, Downing Street said.

In a televised address, the US president announced military plans to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS (also known as Isis and Isil).

Air strikes will take place inside Syria for the first time alongside an expansion of strikes in Iraq and nearly 500 more US troops will be despatched to Iraq to assist its security forces.

The president also called on the US Congress to agree a programme to train and arm Syrian rebel groups fighting IS and dictator Bashar Assad’s regime.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “In terms of specific decisions about participation in further action, we are not at the stage of taking those decisions.”

No 10 said it was vital to build support in the Middle East and pointed to the risks of going “over the heads” of regional leaders.

The spokesman added: “We are very much part of this approach, which is not just one from the United States but one that was very widely shared at last week’s (Nato) summit.

“It is shared by others as well in terms of this broad strategy. There is a military component, the UK’s military has already been involved and we have supported the approach that the US has been taking and we are going to act, in terms of this long-term approach, in close concert with them.

“So wer are supportive and welcome President Obama’s statement from yesterday.

“We need to deal with Isil both in terms of Iraq and in terms of Syria so we are very supportive of that approach.

“I think you have seen our approach for the support that the US has already been taking.

“As to future decisions that are taken we will work with them and the other regional partners on the ground.

“As to what each country together, how they work in complement with each other, those are decisions for further down the line but I think you will continue to see unity of approach.”