British PM says he has spoken to Trump, calls slain Iranian general ‘a threat to all our interests’; London imam urges crowd to aspire to be like Soleimani
LONDON — Britain will not lament the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday, though he warned that reprisals would lead to greater violence.
The United States killed top military leader Soleimani outside Baghdad airport in a drone strike on Friday.
In his first intervention on the escalation of tensions in the Middle East, Johnson said he had spoken Sunday with US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
He said he would speak to other leaders in the coming days.
“General Qassem Soleimani posed a threat to all our interests and was responsible for a pattern of disruptive, destabilizing behavior in the region,” Johnson said in a statement.
“Given the leading role he has played in actions that have led to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and Western personnel, we will not lament his death.
“It is clear however that all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region and they are in no one’s interest.”
Johnson said that following ministerial meetings and further international calls, MPs would be updated on the situation on Tuesday.
Meanwhile London has urged Baghdad to allow international coalition soldiers to stay in Iraq, where the parliament on Sunday pressed the government to oust foreign troops.
The cabinet would have to approve any such decision.
British troops are part of an international coalition of forces stationed in Iraq — invited by the government in Baghdad in 2014 — to help fight against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.
A British government spokesman said: “The coalition is in Iraq to help protect Iraqis and others from the threat from Daesh (IS), at the request of the Iraqi government.
“We urge the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition is able to continue our vital work countering this shared threat.”
Some 5,200 US soldiers are stationed across Iraqi bases to support local troops preventing an IS resurgence.
Meanwhile several dozen British Muslims took part in a memorial ceremony for Soleimani, with an imam urging participants to “aspire to be like” the slain Iranian, the Daily Mail reported.
In a video of the sermon in the Islamic Center of England in London, the cleric tells the crowd that: “I would like to give you all my condolences but I would also like to congratulate you”
“We are lucky enough to live in a time where we can see, touch and feel a man like Qassem Soleimani and we hope and we pray and we work hard to make sure that there will be many many more Qassem Soleimanis,” he said. “We aspire to become like him, we are jealous and we want the same thing for ourselves and our loved ones.”