LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talked to US President Donald Trump about Iranian missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing coalition forces, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
“The PM underlined the importance of de-escalation to avoid further conflict” and “the need for a diplomatic solution” to the crisis, the spokesman told reporters.
“Both leaders agreed to stay in touch,” he added.
News of the conversation came as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab headed to the United States for talks with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo, and members of Congress.
Earlier, Johnson called on Iran not to repeat missile attacks, after last week’s US strike killed one of Tehran’s top commanders, Qasem Soleimani last Friday.
Tehran has warned it will hit back harder if Washington responds.
But Johnson told parliament: “Iran should not repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks but should instead pursue urgent de-escalation.”
The prime minister has been criticised for not cutting short his holiday in the Caribbean to address the threat but he said Britain was working hard to “dial this thing down”.
At his weekly question and answer session, he defended the US strike, and promised to support the security of people in Iraq.
He alleged that general Soleimani had armed Huthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and supported Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
Soleimani also supplied improvised explosive devices “to terrorists to kill and maim” UK forces, Johnson told MPs.
“That man had the blood of British troops on his hands,” he said.
But he rejected suggestions from the main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that Soleimani’s killing was illegal under international law.
“The issue of legality is not for the UK to determine as it was not our operation,” he said.
“But most reasonable people would accept that the United States has a right to protect its bases and personnel.”
Britain has about 1,400 UK military and civilian personnel based in Iraq as part of the 67-nation coalition fighting IS, according to the Ministry of Defence.
The 400-strong troop contingent from two regiments are not involved in combat operations and instead provide training and equipment to Iraqi and Kurdish security forces.
“Non-essential” staff have been relocated while two Royal Navy warships are in the area on an “enhanced state of readiness” to protect UK ships in the Strait of Hormuz, said Johnson.
© Agence France-Presse