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Corbyn says he is not a pacifist

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Friday he was not a pacifist and accepted that military action was sometimes necessary, as he sought to bolster his foreign policy credentials ahead of next month’s election.

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Corbyn, a veteran anti-war campaigner who is opposed to nuclear weapons, has faced accusations from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives that he would put Britain’s security at risk if he won power.

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“I will do everything to protect the security and safety of our people and our country ... The best defence for Britain is a government actively engaged in seeking political solutions to the world’s problems,” he said in a speech in London.

“It doesn’t make me a pacifist. I accept that military action, under international law, as a genuine last resort, is in some circumstances necessary.”

He criticised the “unilateral wars and interventions” of recent years, saying the “bomb first, talk later” approach had failed and that Britain should not just follow Washington’s lead.

“Britain deserves better than simply outsourcing our country’s security and prosperity to the whims of the Trump White House,” he said, adding that while he wanted a strong relationship with the U.S, he would also speak his mind.

“So no more hand-holding with Donald Trump – a Labour government will conduct a robust and independent foreign policy made in Britain,” he said, in a dig at May for holding hands with Trump during a visit to Washington earlier this year.

Corbyn said Labour would support the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons but if circumstances were reached where ordering the use of such weapons was an option it would “represent complete and cataclysmic failure”.

A leak on Thursday of Labour’s draft manifesto featured on many of Friday’s newspaper front pages, with the Sun describing it as “Labour’s day of disasters” after a car carrying Corbyn ran over a BBC cameraman’s foot.

In a visit to the northeast of England later on Friday, May, whose party has a big lead in opinion polls, will seek the backing of working class communities, saying traditional Labour voters are increasingly “appalled” by what Corbyn believes in.

“So far during this campaign, we have learned one thing about Jeremy Corbyn: proud and patriotic working class people in towns and cities across Britain have not deserted the Labour Party – Jeremy Corbyn has deserted them,” she will say, according to extracts released in advance.

Editing by Stephen Addison