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Chemical weapons experts to visit Syria

11 Avril 2018

At the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Russia, as expected, vetoed a U.S. proposal for a new panel to investigate and apportion blame for chemical attacks in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow will propose a resolution to the United Nations to launch an investigation into the reports of a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday canceled plans to travel to South America this week, choosing to stay home to manage what USA officials hope will be an worldwide response to Syria's apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians.

Trump has now cancelled this week's planned trip to Latin America "to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world", according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Trump had on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility for the Syria attack was established.

The strike could be similar to an attack Trump ordered previous year in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime. A resolution requires at least nine votes, with no vetoes from Russia, China, the UK, France or the USA, to pass.

During the UNSC meeting, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that Washington "will respond" to incident regardless of whether the United Nations Security Council takes action or not.

If these reports are confirmed, the attack on April 7 would be the deadliest since around 100 people died from sarin gas in Khan Sheikhoun, northwestern Syria, in April 2017.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia warned that United States military action in Syria could lead to "grave repercussions".

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Assad's Government and its backers, including Russian Federation, "must be held to account" if it is found to have been responsible for the suspected poison gas attack.

A man is washed following alleged chemical weapons attack, in what is said to be Douma, Syria in this still image from video obtained by Reuters on April 8, 2018.

Last night, Trump said "nothing is off the table" in Syria and has vowed to respond "forcefully".

The European Union also laid the blame squarely on Assad's Government.

The Douma incident has thrust Syria's conflict back to the forefront of the global stage, pitting Washington and Moscow against each other once again.

Trump planned two meetings with senior national security aides Monday on Syria, in addition to a previously scheduled late-afternoon White House conference with leaders of US military commands around the world. The alleged attack was reported on Saturday by anti-government groups, which claimed that the Syrian Army dropped a chlorine-filled munition on the area, affecting dozens of civilians.

The U.S. gave Russia a heads up before the 2016 missile strike, and no Russian assets were targeted.

Syria became a member in 2013 as part of a deal brokered by the USA and Russian Federation after a chemical attack in eastern Ghouta killed hundreds of people.

In that last strike, 59 cruise missiles hit an airfield, but it was back in operation within days.

"It's entirely possible that Russian advisers could be present at sites that USA military and allied forces potentially strike", Winnefeld said.

US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity did not disclose any plans, but acknowledged military options were being developed.

Syrian government forces were on high alert and taking precautionary measures Tuesday at military positions across the country amid fears of a USA strike in the aftermath of the attack near Damascus.

"The OPCW technical secretariat has requested the Syrian Arab Republic to make the necessary arrangements for such a deployment", the OPCW said in a statement.

The allegations are also denied by the Syrian government.

Syria's state news agency Sana initially said the attack on the T4 air base was likely "an American aggression".

A European source said European governments were waiting for the OPCW to carry out its investigation and for more solid forensic evidence from the attack to emerge.

As western leaders mull a response, Trump Monday discussed possible military action that could be taken during a Cabinet meeting with military leaders.

Thousands of opposition fighters, along with tens of thousands of civilians, are still in Douma.

Their evacuation restores Mr Assad's control over the entire eastern Ghouta - formerly the biggest rebel bastion near Damascus.

Speaking with media in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that we can not blindly believe the results until experts take a closer look. He said the jammers were initially detected as faint signals from space, bouncing off the earth's surface.

Chemical weapons experts to visit Syria