UK ministers back action on chemical weapon use, p23 and Russia envoy says he ‘cannot exclude’ war,
PRESIDENT Donald Trump and his national security aides on Thursday discussed US options on Syria, where he has threatened missile strikes in response to a suspected poison gas attack, as a Russian envoy voiced fears of wider conflict between Washington and Moscow.
Worries about a confrontation between Russia, Syria’s big ally, and the West have been running high since Mr Trump said on Wednesday that missiles “will be coming” in response to the attack in the Syrian town of Douma last Saturday, and lambasted Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Mr Trump tempered those remarks on Thursday and even as he consulted allies such as Britain and France, who could join in any US-led strikes on Syria, there were signs of efforts to prevent the crisis from spiralling out of control.
“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter, raising the prospect that an attack might not be as imminent as he seemed to suggest the day before.
Mr Trump met his national security team on the situation in Syria later in the day and “no final decision has been made,” the White House said in a statement.
Mr Trump spoke to British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday and the two leaders talked about the “need for a joint response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons,” the White House said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said France had proof the Syrian government carried out the attack near Damascus, which aid groups have said killed dozens of people, and will decide whether to strike back when all the necessary information has been gathered.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin will not join any military strikes against Syria but supports Western efforts to show the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.
Russia, Syria and its other main backer, Iran, have said reports of the Douma attack were fabricated by rebels and rescue workers and have accused the United States of seeking to use it as a pretext to attack the Syrian government.
There were signs of a global effort to head off a direct confrontation between Russia and the West. The Kremlin said a crisis communications link with the United States, created to avoid an accidental clash over Syria, was in use.
Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations, said he “cannot exclude” war between the United States and Russia and urged Washington and its allies to refrain from military action against Syria.
“The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war,” he told reporters. “We hope there will be no point of no return,” the envoy said.
A team of experts from the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was travelling to Syria and will start its investigations today, the Netherlands-based agency said.