UK min­is­ters back ac­tion on chem­i­cal weapon use, p23 and Rus­sia en­voy says he ‘can­not ex­clude’ war,

Cyprus Today - - TURKEY -

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.

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