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UK defense chief says Britain should be part of coalition against 'Islamic State' in Syria

The UK's military chief says it 'makes no sense' to be in Iraq and not Syria when 'Islamic State's' powerbase is there. General Sir Nicholas Houghton told Sky News, Britain was 'letting down its allies.'

Britain's chief of the Defense Staff on Sunday compared not taking part in anti-"Islamic State"(IS) airstrikes in Syria as "being asked to win a football match without going into the opponent's half."

In an interview with Sky News, General Sir Nicholas Houghton questioned the decision by UK lawmakers to vote down joining

the international anti-IS coalition,

as the militant group "has a caliphate that extends across the Iraq-Syria border."

Houghton added that "their command and control, their logistics...the place from which they issue orders to international terrorists is from within Syria."

He said for Britain's air force to be denied a chance to play a "proportionate role" in striking the jihadist group "makes no sense."

Although Members of Parliament (MPs) approved a plan last year for British jets to join more than 60 countries in launching airstrikes on IS targets in Iraq, the

UK parliament previously voted down a similar proposal to

strike Syria.

US jet over Syria

The US is leading a multinational air war against the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" militant group in Syria and Iraq

The plan was never resubmitted for a second vote, but an influential committee of UK politicians recently advised against action.

But several British pilots have still taken part in air raids using jets from coalition countries.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says the government still plans to resubmit the question once it is sure it has enough cross-party support for it to be passed in parliament.

"When we think it's right to do so, when we think we have a consensus, we will go to the House of Commons," he told the BBC.

Political solution

But Hammond conceded that Britain's absence "wasn't going to tip the balance" in Syria and called for a political solution to bring about a ceasefire in the four-year civil war.

The government has

argued that it is illogical to conduct airstrikes in Iraq and not neighboring Syria,

saying the two countries are "a single theatre of conflict."

But the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee - a cross-party group of MPs which scrutinizes Britain's foreign policy - said in a new report that Prime Minister David Cameron's focus on joining airstrikes was "incoherent" and "a distraction."

British officials have said that Britain's involvement in Syria would be strengthened if it is confirmed that IS militants downed a Russian passenger jet in Egypt.

Britain has suspended scheduled flights out of Sharm el-Sheikh as a result of the crash and has sent over aircraft to fly home Britons remaining in the resort.

mm/jm (AFP, Sky News)

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