January 8, 2020 / 6:59 AM / 2 months ago

UK PM Johnson condemns Iranian attack on military bases in Iraq

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned on Wednesday the attack by Iran on military bases in Iraq housing western troops in retaliation for the U.S. killing of an Iranian general.

Iranian forces fired missiles at military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation for the death of Qassem Soleimani, raising the stakes in its conflict with Washington amid concern of a wider war in the Middle East.

“We of course condemn the attack on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces,” Johnson told parliament, speaking in public on the crisis for the first time. “Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but must instead pursue urgent de-escalation.”

Johnson said “as far we can tell” there were no U.S. casualties in the attack, and no British personnel were injured.

Asked by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn what evidence he had to suggest the U.S. drone strike on Soleimani was not illegal, Johnson said it was not up to Britain to determine the legality of the operation.

“Most reasonable people would accept that the United States has a right to protect its bases and its personnel,” Johnson said, adding that Soleimani had supplied improvised explosive devices which had been used against the British military.

“That man had the blood of British troops on his hands,” he added.

Johnson shrugged off suggestions by Corbyn that he would fall into line with the United States over its Middle East policy because he wanted a trade deal after Brexit.

“This is absolute fiction,” he said.

“The UK will continue to work for de-escalation in the region ... He should be in absolutely no doubt ... that we are determined to guarantee, with everything that we can, the safety and security of the people of Iraq.”

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison

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