April 7, 2017 / 7:14 AM / 4 months ago

UK says U.S. Syria strike designed to deter, not start of new military campaign

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Britain's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon give a news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (not shown) at Lancaster House in London March 31, 2017.Matt Dunham/Pool

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's defence minister said a U.S. military strike against a Syrian airfield was designed to deter Bashar al-Assad from carrying out any further chemical weapons attacks but was not the start of a new military campaign.

When asked if the strike was the start of a new military campaign, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "We don't see last night's strike like that."

"This strike was very limited to one airfield, it was entirely appropriate, it's designed to deter the regime from carrying out further chemical weapons attacks," Fallon told ITV television. "So we don't see it as the start of a different military campaign."

In a sharp escalation of the U.S. military role in Syria, two U.S. warships fired dozens of cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the airbase controlled by Assad's forces in response to the poison gas attack in a rebel-held area on Tuesday.

"We've not been asked to be involved in this, this was not a matter for the coalition that's in Syria and Iraq fighting Daesh," Fallon said. "This was a United States operation, but let me emphasise again we fully support it."

Reporting by Costas Pitas and Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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