Cameron cuts short holiday over Iraq, resists calls for air strikes

LONDON Wed Aug 13, 2014 3:44pm BST

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, visit a seafood market in Cascais, during a holiday in Portugal August 5, 2014. REUTERS/Francisco Leong/Pool

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, visit a seafood market in Cascais, during a holiday in Portugal August 5, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Francisco Leong/Pool

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LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his holiday to return to Britain to chair a meeting to discuss the Iraq crisis on Wednesday, but resisted calls to intervene there militarily and ruled out recalling parliament for now.

Cameron returned as Iraq's new prime minister-designate won endorsements from uneasy mutual allies the United States and Iran. He also called on Iraqi leaders to end feuds that have let jihadists seize much of the country.

Several British lawmakers have called on Cameron to recall parliament from its summer recess to discuss Iraq, while at least two former senior military figures have said Britain should follow the U.S. lead and intervene militarily against Islamist fighters there on humanitarian grounds.

But Cameron made clear that Britain's response would for now be limited to a humanitarian effort to help thousands of people belonging to the Yazidi religious sect who have been driven into the arid Sinjar mountain range by Sunni Muslim militants.

"We need a plan to get these people off that mountain and get them to a place of safety," Cameron said, speaking after the meeting. "I can confirm that detailed plans are now being put in place and are underway and that Britain will play a role in delivering them."

Cameron had been due to return from his summer holiday in Portugal on Thursday, but his office issued a statement earlier on Wednesday saying he was already back in Britain to lead the top-level government meeting.

Cameron ruled out an immediate recall of parliament, saying it was not necessary because Britain's involvement was humanitarian, not military. However, he said that the recall option could be exercised if the situation changed.

The last time Cameron tried to sign Britain up to potential military strikes in the Middle East, against Syria in August 2013, he lost a parliamentary vote.

The defeat was attributed in part to the bitter legacy of Britain's involvement in the 2003 Iraq war, which did much to turn British public opinion against foreign military interventions.

Britain is already conducting aid drops from C-130 cargo planes to try to help the Yazidi refugees and has sent Tornado jets and Chinook helicopters to help the humanitarian effort.

London has also agreed to transport critical military re-supplies, such as ammunition, being provided by other nations to Kurdish forces to help them protect refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan from militants of the Islamic State (IS).

The defence ministry refused to say which countries it was helping deliver military supplies.

(Editing by Stephen Addison)

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