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Hollande calls on British to join Syria air strikes despite protests in UK, Spain

Britain's Prince Charles (R) and French President François Hollande at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Valletta, Malta,
Britain's Prince Charles (R) and French President François Hollande at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Valletta, Malta, Reuters/Andrew Winning

French President François Hollande has appealed to British MPs to bomb the Islamic State (IS) armed group in Syria, ahead of protests against joining the airstrikes campaign in the UK and Spain on Saturday. Hollande's office on Friday ruled out collaboration with the Syrian army, contradicting an earlier statement by Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius.

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"I can only call on all British members of parliament, in solidarity with France but, above all, conscious of the fight against terrorism, to approve this intervention," Hollande said at the Commonwealth conference in Malta, to which he flew after speaking at the ceremony to honour the victims of the 13 November attacks on Paris.

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Germany has offered to send Tornado reconnaissance jets, a Naval frigate and 650 soldiers to relieve French forces in Mali.

France joined US-led air strikes on Syria in September, having previously only taken part in bombing targets on Iraq, the current British position.

The UK parliament is expected to vote on Prime Minister David Cameron's call to join the air strikes next week.

In 2013 suffered a defeat when members of his own Conservative Party joined the opposition in voting down the proposal.

This time newly elected opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who opposes involvement, faces a revolt from the right of his Labour Party.

The Stop the War Coalition, which Corbyn helped found, has called demonstrations against involvement in London and other British cities on Saturday.

Similar protests have been organised in Spain, where right-wing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has so far not taken a position, saying that he has not received an official request for help from Paris.

France says that all 27 European Union countries have promised to help in some way.

On Friday the Elysée presidential palace forced Fabius to partially retract a declaration made on radio earlier in the day that France and its allies could collaborate with the Syrian army in fighting IS.

His Syrian counterpart, Walid Mouallem, welcomed the first statement, while adding that it would mean "a radical change in the way they're tackling the Syrian crisis".

Later in the day the Elysée ruled out working with the Syrian military unless there is a "credible political transition".

That would mean a national unity government that includes exile groups, a timetable for transition and President Bashar al-Assad ceasing to "massacre his own people".

Talks on Syria are to start again in Vienna in mid-December.

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