Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | ePaper

Trump, allies praise Syria strikes as Moscow seethes

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AFP :
US President Donald Trump and his British and French allies on Saturday hailed their joint strikes in Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons, warning Damascus that any repetition would be met with renewed firepower.
Hours later, the allies signaled their resolve to return to diplomacy, launching a new bid at the United Nations to investigate the chemical weapons attacks.
They circulated a joint draft resolution at the Security Council that also calls for unimpeded deliveries of humanitarian aid and enforcement of a ceasefire and demands that Syria engage
 in UN-led peace talks, according to the text obtained by AFP.
The narrowly targeted pre-dawn military operation, which took aim at three alleged chemical weapons facilities, earned quick scorn from Russia, but a push by Moscow for condemnation of the strikes at the Security Council fell far short.
Trump and his allies ordered the mission in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack a week ago on the rebel-held town of Douma that left more than 40 people dead.
Washington believes both sarin and chlorine were used in the April 7 attack, a senior US administration official told reporters on Saturday.
Both the regime of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and its ally Russia have denied all responsibility. Moscow slammed the "aggressive actions" of the Western coalition but has not yet responded militarily.
US ambassador Nikki Haley warned her UN counterparts that although the mission was designed as a one-off, that did not preclude further action against Assad.
"I spoke to the president this morning and he said: 'If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,'" Haley said at emergency Security Council talks.
Negotiations on the draft resolution put forward by the US, France and Britain are set to begin on Monday.
Among the contentious proposals, it would establish an independent investigation into allegations of toxic gas attacks in Syria with the aim of identifying the perpetrators.
On the humanitarian side, the measure demands medical evacuations and safe passage for aid convoys to be allowed to all areas. Diplomats said it remained unclear when the council would vote on the proposal, and they were ready to allow time for negotiations to bring Russia aboard. Just before dawn on Saturday, the sounds of massive explosions and the roar of warplanes rang out across Damascus for about 45 minutes. "A perfectly executed strike last night," Trump tweeted early Saturday.

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