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Cameron calls for UK to join airstrikes in Syria

David Cameron says the Paris attacks have bolstered the case for Britain to join airstrikes in Syria, after visiting Francois Hollande. UK jets are only striking "Islamic State" targets in Iraqi territory at the moment.

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Hollande, Cameron step up fight against IS

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that he would

address parliament on Thursday

to urge MPs to back strikes against the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) militants in Syria.

"On Thursday I will come to this house to make a statement" on the air campaign, Cameron said, having flown back to London from an earlier meeting with President Francois Hollande in Paris.

The announcement came as the British government pledged an increase in the country's military spending.

Writing in Monday's "Daily Telegraph" newspaper, the prime minister said: "As the murders on the streets of Paris reminded us so starkly, Islamic State is not some remote problem thousands of miles away; it is a direct threat to our security."

Britain has long been carrying out airstrikes against the terror group in Iraq, but not in Syria.

In a separate August 2013 parliamentary vote, Cameron failed to secure support for strikes targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military. Despite now seeking to bomb a different party to Syria's civil war, Cameron has since shied away from promising another parliamenty vote

until he could be certain of winning

.

Francois Hollande and David Cameron at the Bataclan

Francois Hollande and David Cameron pay homage to the victims killed at Paris' Bataclan concert venue

Vote by the end of the week?

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is opposed to military action in Syria. But, following the Paris carnage, the bombing of a Russian airliner, and the fatal shootings of British tourists in Tunisia, there are signs dozens of Labour MPs would now support airstrikes. The UN Security Council's recent resolution authorizing countries to "take all necessary measures" against IS may also sway undecided politicians.

Corbyn has so far said he would call on his MPs to vote "as a party," but Labour Defense spokeswoman Angela Eagle told the BBC on Monday that a final decision on whether members could vote as they wished would only be made after Cameron had made his case to parliament. Eagle also said that even Corbyn - who is known for his anti-war stance - may vote in favor of strikes.

"My understanding is he is not a pacifist and that means that it is conceivable," Eagle said.

A Times/YouGov opinion poll published last week found that 58 percent of people would approve of Britain joining airstrikes in Syria, compared to 22 percent against.

Increased defense funding

In a speech to parliament on Monday, Cameron also pledged an extra £12 billion ($18.2 billion, 17.1 billion euros) over the next decade to help the military act against threats including IS.

The money would help fund nine new Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and two new rapid-reaction "strike brigades" of 5,000 soldiers - able to swiftly deploy across long distances. The funds would also cover a 10-year extension to the lifespan of the Royal Air Force's Typhoon fighter jets.

The prime minister said that his government had put together a new contingency plan in case of a major terror attack like the one in Paris.

"Under this new operation, up to 10,000 military personnel will be available to support the police," he said. The attacks in Paris prompted a debate over British policing practices, not least because many officers do not carry firearms.

Greater cooperation

Earlier on Monday, Cameron traveled to Paris to meet with French President Francois Hollande and to pay his respects to the 130 people who were killed in a series of shootings and bombings on November 13.

Cameron said that the two leaders

agreed to increase counterterrorism cooperation

, and that it was his "firm conviction" that Britain should join France and others in an air campaign in Syria.

He also offered the use of the air base at Akrotiri on Cyprus for French actions against IS in Syria.

nm/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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