May, Macron face lawmakers angry over Syria strikes

A video grab from the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May responding to questions concerning British participation in the air strikes on Syria. (AFP)
Updated 16 April 2018

May, Macron face lawmakers angry over Syria strikes

  • Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for new legislation to stop governments launching military action without lawmakers’ backing in most circumstances.
  • National Front leader Marine Le Pen accused Macron of failing to show any evidence on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime to justify the strikes.

London: British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday faced anger from lawmakers for conducting air strikes with the United States in Syria in both leaders’ first major military actions since coming to power.
May said lawmakers were right to hold her to account for her actions, after the premier proceeded with the strikes without prior parliamentary approval.
“But it is my responsibility as prime minster to make these decisions. And I will make them,” May, 61, said of the intervention.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for new legislation to stop governments launching military action without lawmakers’ backing in most circumstances.
“The prime minister is accountable to this parliament, not to the whims of the US president,” he told a packed chamber.
Following Washington’s military lead remains a sensitive subject in Britain, where memories of participation in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 are still raw.
May, in office since July 2016, rejected the notion that she took orders from US President Donald Trump, saying her decision was based on Britain’s national interest.
“We have not done this because President Trump asked us to do so. We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do,” she said.
But a poll showed scant public support for the move.
The poll by Survation for the Mail on Sunday showed 36 percent in favor of Britain’s participation in the air strikes, 40 percent against and the remainder undecided.
Of the survey’s 2,060 respondents, 54 percent also agreed with the statement that May “should have held a parliamentary debate and vote before intervening militarily in Syria.”
May’s speech was followed by a heated debate during which some MPs called on Britain to welcome more Syrian refugees — rejected by May — and continue the diplomatic push to end the seven-year conflict.
Outside the Houses of Parliament, the Stop the War coalition once chaired by Corbyn was due to hold a demonstration.
The group said the strikes “will have done nothing to end the war” and “risked dramatically widening” the conflict.
In France, Macron has faced similar criticism for attacking Syria without consulting the legislature.
He defended the move as well as his constitutional powers in a TV interview on Sunday.
“This mandate is given democratically to the president by the people in the presidential election,” said Macron, who became France’s youngest president in May 2017.
Macron, 40, has been criticized from both right and left.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen has accused Macron of failing to show any evidence on the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime to justify the strikes.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of the hard-left France Unbowed party, has also condemned the strikes, while the leader of the center-right Republicans party, Laurent Wauquiez, said he “did not believe in punitive strikes.”
But at a press conference in Paris on Monday, Macron said France had acted with “international legitimacy.”
He argued that the operation was legitimate despite not being sanctioned by the UN since under a 2013 UN resolution Syria was supposed to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal.


China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

Updated 20 min 11 sec ago

China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

  • Raising transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden until the epidemic is over
  • The virus has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections

BEIJING: China on Sunday ordered a temporary ban on the trade in wild animals as the country struggles to contain a deadly virus believed to have been spawned in a market that sold wild animals as food.
Raising, transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden “from the date of the announcement until the national epidemic situation is over,” said a government directive.
The ban was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
The lethal virus, which has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections in China, and spread to about a dozen countries, is believed to have originated in a market in the central city of Wuhan, where a range of wildlife was reportedly sold.
Conservationists have long accused China of tolerating a shadowy trade in exotic animals for food or as ingredients in traditional medicines, including highly endangered species such as the pangolin or tiger.
Health experts say the trade poses a significant and growing public health risk as potentially dangerous animal-borne pathogens that people would normal not be exposed to make the jump to humans.
The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 also has been traced to wild animals, with scientists saying it likely originated in bats, later reaching humans via civets.
Civets, a cat-like creature, were among dozens of species listed on an exhaustive price list for one of the animal-trading businesses at the Wuhan market that emerged online last week.
Other items included various rats, snakes, giant salamanders and even live wolf pups.
Sunday’s announcement said all businesses, markets, food and beverage outlets and e-commerce platforms are “strictly prohibited from trading in wild animals in any form.”
It added that “consumers must fully understand the health risks of eating wild animals, avoid wild game, and eat healthy.”
The so-called bushmeat trade, along with broader human encroachment on wild habitats, is bringing humans into ever-closer contact with animal viruses that can spread rapidly in today’s connected world, scientists say.
A study by the Global Virome Project, a worldwide effort to increase preparedness for pandemics, estimated that there are nearly 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in the animal kingdom, nearly half of which could be harmful to humans.
Peter Daszak, a virology expert with the project, told AFP its research also indicated that we can expect around five new animal-borne pathogens to infect humanity each year.
China has launched previous crackdowns on the wildlife trade, including after SARS, but conservationists say the trade typically resumes over time.