Saturday 21 April 2018

Corbyn hits back at poison stance criticism

Jeremy Corbyn has defended his position over Salisbury attack. Photo: PA
Jeremy Corbyn has defended his position over Salisbury attack. Photo: PA

Andrew Woodcock

Jeremy Corbyn has defended his stance on the Salisbury poison attack after coming under fire after his team raised doubts over whether Russia was to blame.

The Labour leader stressed he "totally condemns" the attack and said "the evidence points towards Russia" being responsible.

Mr Corbyn faced criticism after failing to offer his support in Parliament on Wednesday to UK Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats.

Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith publicly backed the mass expulsion yesterday, saying it would have been "easier for us" if the Labour leader made it clear he supported the move too.

Ms Griffith told reporters that Labour was "fully supporting" the expulsion of 23 diplomats.

Asked if Mr Corbyn had undermined UK security assessments that it was "highly likely" Russia was behind their poisoning, Ms Griffith said: "Looking back, perhaps it would have been easier for us if he had made it clear at the beginning of what he said, just how much we support the expulsion of the diplomats."

Speaking during a visit to Carlisle, Mr Corbyn said: "I was extremely definite yesterday that I totally condemn this attack. The perpetrators must be brought to justice.

"The international Chemical Weapons Convention must be invoked and the source of this weapon, which appears to be Russia - either from the state or from a rogue element of the state - must be brought to justice as a result of it."

He added: "The evidence points towards Russia on this, therefore responsibility must be borne by those that made the weapon, those that brought the weapon into the country and those that used the weapon."

Mr Corbyn was briefed on Privy Council terms ahead of Wednesday's statement about the intelligence behind Mrs May's assessment that Moscow was culpable for the attack.

The Labour leader said that in the Commons he had asked "questions about the identity of the weapon, questions about the reference to the weapons convention and also the support of other allies", adding: "That's what oppositions are there for."

Ms Griffith's comments were quickly supported by several Labour MPs.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said she was "spot on", while Kingston Upon Hull North MP Diana Johnson said she "fully" supported the shadow defence secretary.

Mr Corbyn's official spokesman appeared on Wednesday to question the Government's use of intelligence material, telling reporters there was "a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly".

Irish Independent

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