Boris Johnson will hold a series of talks over escalating tensions between Iran and the West in the coming hours, following the assassination of military leader Qasem Soleimani.
The Prime Minister will convene a meeting of senior ministers, including the foreign secretary Dominic Raab and defence secretary Ben Wallace, this afternoon.
He will then chair a National Security Council tomorrow morning, following a regular Cabinet meeting.
Johnson is also due to speak to his Iraqi counterpart today. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman urged the country not to insist on the withdrawal of US troops, saying the coalition was there “to protect Iraqis and others from the threat from Da’esh at the request of the Iraqi government”.
He added: “We urge the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition is able to continue our vital work countering this shared threat.
The spokesman rejected suggestions that Soleimani’s killing was illegal, saying: “The States have a right to take action such as this in self defence and the US have been clear that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on American diplomats and military personnel.”
However he refused to comment on whether the UK government had been shown any evidence to justify this claim.
He insisted the UK continues to have a “very close” partnership with the US, despite being given no prior warning of the attack, which took place on Friday.
Urging restraint on all sides, the spokesman described Iran’s decision to pull back from the joint nuclear deal as “very concerning”.
Flagging that it was a reciprocal deal, he added that the UK is “speaking to our partners about next steps”. Johnson and European counterparts Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron issued a joint statement yesterday, urging “Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with the JCPOA”.
Today the spokesman also warned that it would oppose any move by the US to attack cultural sites in Iran – something which President Donald Trump has signalled he is willing to do.
Trump told reporters this weekend: “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people, and we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way.”
But, the Downing Street spokesman said there were “international conventions that prevent the destruction of cultural heritage”, although stopped short of describing it as a potential war crime.
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