UK

Commons should back Syria air strikes - President Hollande

Francois Hollande Image copyright Getty Images

The French president has called on MPs to back UK air strikes in Syria, following the terror attacks in Paris earlier this month.

President Hollande thanked the UK for its support in the wake of the attacks and said he hoped MPs would back David Cameron's case for military action.

The PM has said there is a "compelling case" for air strikes against so-called Islamic State targets in Syria.

But senior Labour MPs have been trying to defuse a party row over the issue.

Mr Hollande, who was speaking at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, said the Paris attacks showed "man is the worst enemy of man".

"I do hope that the House of Commons will be able to meet the request of Prime Minister Cameron," he added.

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It comes after Mr Cameron made his case to Parliament on Thursday for the UK to extend air strikes against so-called Islamic State from Iraq into Syria.

Extending military action into Syria will make the UK safer, the prime minister said.

Mr Cameron has vowed to hold a Commons vote on joining air strikes in Syria when he is confident he can win it, which could depend on persuading enough Labour MPs to back his case to counter any Conservative rebellion.

Earlier, he again urged MPs to support military action, saying there was a "compelling case to keep our country safe".

The BBC understands senior government ministers, including Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, will ring Labour MPs over the weekend to press the case for action.

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However, senior shadow cabinet members have been seeking to defuse an internal party row over the issue, which threatens to split Labour.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to MPs to express his opposition to air strikes - putting him at odds with more than half of his shadow cabinet.

He faced warnings of resignations after he wrote to Labour MPs rejecting the prime minister's case for military action.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC there are "some issues, like going to war, which should be above party politics", adding that MPs should be allowed to vote according to their conscience.

He also said there "shouldn't be any party discipline on issues like this".

Two Labour MPs have since called for Mr Corbyn to resign over the issue, with John Spellar, MP for Warley, saying the Labour leader's handling of the row had been "unacceptable".

Fiona McTaggart, MP for Slough, said Mr Corbyn's leadership had been "weak".

However, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said shadow cabinet members who disagree with Mr Corbyn's position will not be resigning.

Mr Watson hinted a free vote - allowing the shadow cabinet and Labour MPs to vote as they please - might be the best way out of the situation.

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Media captionWatson: It 'won't come' to resignations

Asked if he would resign if there was not a free vote, Mr Watson said: "No, of course not. I'm the deputy leader of the party with a mandate. But I don't think that situation is going to occur."

Mr Watson said he agreed with Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn's view that the prime minister had made a "compelling case" for military action and that the UK faced an "imminent security threat".

'Growing momentum'

However, Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet ally Diane Abbott urged the shadow front bench to get behind their leader in any vote.

She said: "Jeremy appoints the shadow cabinet - not the other way round. You cannot have a shadow cabinet voting down the leader of the Labour Party who has just been elected with the biggest mandate in history."

It comes as Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said there is growing "momentum" among MPs in support of extending RAF air strikes against IS into Syria.

Mr Hammond said ministers would give MPs the chance to reflect over the weekend on Mr Cameron's case before deciding whether to press for a Commons vote.

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