UK's Labour Party leader okays free vote on Syria strikes

AP News
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Posted: Nov 30, 2015 1:43 PM

LONDON (AP) — British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has indicated that his divided Labour Party's lawmakers will be allowed a free vote on whether to launch airstrikes against militants in Syria, a position that will boost Prime Minister David Cameron's chances of gaining parliamentary backing.

Cameron plans to make a statement Monday evening, with a vote expected in Parliament as early as Wednesday. He had said he would only call a vote when confident of victory.

Corbyn's decision, reached after a meeting Monday with senior Labour Party figures, means the opposition leader will not demand that all his party's legislators follow his lead and oppose the strikes. Dozens are expected to vote in favor of Cameron's proposal.

Cameron is seeking authorization to expand ongoing Royal Air Force bombing raids against Islamic State positions in Iraq into Syria, where the militant group has a stronghold in the city of Raqqa. He has said the group poses a threat to Britain's national security.

The United Nations Security Council called last week for nations to unite against the extremists after the attacks in Paris and the downing of a Russian civilian airliner over Egypt's Sinai Desert.

If the measure is approved in Parliament, British military operations are expected to start shortly afterward.

The recently elected Corbyn, who is extremely skeptical about military interventions, faced a possible rebellion and mass resignations from legislators who back military action if he had used his position as party leader to force members to vote against the airstrikes.