Russia warns of war over Syria strikes

IANS
Friday, 13 April 2018

Russia has warned the US that launching airstrikes in response to a suspected chemical attack in Syria could spark a war between the two countries and accused Washington of putting international peace at risk.

Moscow: Russia has warned the US that launching airstrikes in response to a suspected chemical attack in Syria could spark a war between the two countries and accused Washington of putting international peace at risk.

"The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war," Moscow's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Thursday.

Western powers are thought to be preparing for strikes but Syria's ally Russia opposes such action, the BBC reported on Friday.

Nebenzia said the situation was "very dangerous" and they "cannot exclude any possibilities". There is a heightened "danger of escalation" because of the Russian military presence in Syria, Nebenzia said after a private meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

Senior Russian figures, including the head of the military, warned that US missiles will be shot down and their launch sites targeted if Russian personnel come under threat, the report said.

Nebenzia also called for the UN Security Council to meet again on Friday to discuss the possibility of Western military action. The White House said it was continuing to assess intelligence and talk to its allies on how to respond.

Meanwhile, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its experts in Syria will start investigations on Saturday.

The call for action came after a suspected chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta last week killed over 70 people. President Bashar al-Assad's government called the chemical attack reports "fabricated".

The Violations Documentation Centre, which records alleged violations of international law in Syria, said bodies were found with foam at the mouth, discoloured skin and burns to the eyes.

On Thursday, US officials said they had blood and urine samples from victims which had tested positive for chlorine and a nerve agent, according to a NBC News report.

French President Emmanuel Macron also said he had "proof" that the Syrian government had attacked Douma with chemical weapons.

In the UK, Cabinet ministers said that it was "highly likely" the Assad regime was responsible for the attack and said the use of chemical weapons must not "go unchallenged".

During a phone call late on Thursday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump agreed on the need to deter chemical weapon use in Syria.

Trump had also said last week that Putin bore responsibility for the "atrocity" in Douma because of his support for the Syrian government.

On Wednesday, the US President said the missiles were "coming", but on Thursday he tweeted that he had "never said when". It "could be very soon or not so soon at all".

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