Published: Wed, April 11, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Weapons inspectors to deploy to Syria's Douma "shortly" - OPCW

Weapons inspectors to deploy to Syria's Douma

Vice President Mike Pence will travel in Trump's place, attending the summit in Lima but not traveling to Colombia.

Inspectors with the global chemical weapons watchdog will travel to the Syrian town of Douma to investigate reports of an attack there that killed as many as 60 people, the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

But the incident has thrust Syria's seven-year-old conflict back to the forefront of worldwide concern and has pitted Washington and Moscow against each other again.

Meanwhile on the ground, thousands of militants and their families arrived in rebel-held northwestern Syria after surrendering Douma to government forces. The evacuation deal restores Assad's control over the entire eastern Ghouta - formerly the biggest rebel bastion near Damascus.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a United Nations watchdog, said it was investigating the allegations but that so far only a "preliminary analysis" had been carried out.

But whether a team would try to get there was unclear.

Trump - who previous year launched a missile strike on a regime base after another alleged chemical attack - warned Sunday that there would be a "big price to pay".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in early April said he welcomes Trump's pledge of an early withdrawal from Syria, despite what he called "worrisome" signs that US troops were becoming "deeply entrenched" in areas east of the Euphrates River in fighting the Islamic State (IS) group.

On Tuesday, NBC News cited four USA officials as saying that Russian Federation began jamming the GPS systems of small unmanned surveillance aircraft several weeks ago.

Trump said that he would make a decision about how to respond within a few days, adding that the United States had "a lot of options militarily" on Syria.

The US-drafted United Nations resolution would have established a new body to determine whether Syria was responsible for a chemical attack in Douma last week which killed 70 people.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Russia has the "blood of Syrian children" on its hands, and Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia said the incident was staged and that possible U.S. military action could trigger "grave repercussions".

USA military action similar to last year's would likely not cause a shift in the direction of the war that has gone Assad's way since 2015 with massive aid from Iran and Russian Federation.

In a statement, McCain said Trump "responded decisively" past year with the air strike and urged Trump to be forceful again to "demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes". Any riposte would most likely be in coordination with the United States, government aides said. Syrian state TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying that Israeli F-15 warplanes fired several missiles at T4.

President Trump was scheduled to leave the country Friday for a 3-day trip to Latin America but today the White House announced the president would cancel that trip in order to focus on events in Syria.

"That kind of atrocity is not acceptable", International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said.

Mr. Trump yesterday promised a rapid decision on action, as "we can not allow atrocities like that". Moscow has cautioned the USA not to launch a military attack. That's equal to the number of fatalities reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. A resolution would need nine votes and no vetos by Russia, Britain, China or the U.S.to be approved.Russia says it does not agree with the USA draft.

"Russia is being unpardonably threatened".

A war-monitoring group said the airstrikes killed 14 people, including Iranian soldiers fighting in Syria. They require something Trump has yet to embrace: a plan.

The alleged Syrian chemical attack is becoming a new flashpoint for relations between the United States and Russian Federation that many already see as having hit rock-bottom. Damascus blamed Islamic State militants for mustard gas use. Russian military police have since entered parts of the town.

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