British Prime Minister Theresa May told restive lawmakers Monday that military airstrikes on Syria were right both legally and morally, and she accused Syria and its ally Russia of attempting to cover up evidence of a deadly chemical weapons attack.
May faced down her domestic critics as France's premier defended the "proportionate" response to the use of chemical weapons. European Union foreign ministers united to say they understood the need for the airstrikes and called for a new push for a political solution to the war in Syria.
British Royal Air Force jets joined American and French warplanes and ships in hitting targets in Syria early Saturday in response to a reported chemical attack by the Syrian government in the town of Douma.
The British government is not legally bound to seek Parliament's approval for military strikes, although it is customary to do so, and many lawmakers expressed anger that they were not consulted.
May told legislators in the House of Commons that seeking their approval would have been impractical, both because Parliament was on a spring break until Monday and because some of the intelligence behind the decision was classified.
"We have always been clear that the government has the right to act quickly in the national interest," May said, calling the military action "not just morally right but also legally right."
"We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized, either within Syria, on the streets of the U.K., or elsewhere," May said — linking the chemical attack in Syria with the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter last month with a military-grade nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury.
Syria and Russia have both denied that Syrian government forces carried out the Douma gas attack, suggesting it may have been staged to implicate them.