Trump promises forceful response to chemical arms attack in Syria

President Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton in the Cabinet Room in Washington, DC on April 9, 2018. (AFP)

President Donald Trump said on Monday that he and US military officials were reviewing a US response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria over the weekend and promised a forceful decision as early as Monday night.

Speaking to reporters at the start of the meeting, Trump said the United States had a lot of options militarily on Syria and expected to make a decision on Monday night or shortly thereafter.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia speaks during the UN Security Council meeting on April 9, 2018. (AFP)

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia speaks during the UN Security Council meeting on April 9, 2018. (AFP)

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said earlier on Monday that Moscow has warned the United States of “grave repercussions” if it carries out an attack against Syrian government forces over reports of a deadly chemical weapons attack.

“There was no chemical weapons attack,” Nebenzia told the UN Security Council.

“Through the relevant channels we already conveyed to the US that armed force under mendacious pretext against Syria - where, at the request of the legitimate government of a country, Russian troops have been deployed - could lead to grave repercussions,” he said.

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US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council that Washington “will respond” to the attack on a rebel-held town in Syria regardless of whether the United Nations Security Council acts or not.

“We have reached the moment when the world must see justice done,” Haley told the council.

A Syrian child is seen walking near International Red Cross vehicle in the rebel-held city of Douma. (File photo: Reuters)

A Syrian child is seen walking near International Red Cross vehicle in the rebel-held city of Douma. (File photo: Reuters)

Complete failure

“History will record this as the moment when the Security Council either discharged its duty or demonstrated its utter and complete failure to protect the people of Syria,” she said. “Either way, the United States will respond.”

British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce told reporters ahead of the meeting that Britain “would prefer to start with a proper investigation,” but all options were on the table and London was in close contact with its allies the United States and France.

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Nebenzia also said that investigators with the global chemical weapons watchdog should fly to Syria as early as Tuesday to look into accusations about the attack, offering them protection from Syrian authorities and Russian troops.

“The Syrian authorities and Russian troops will provide conditions to travel to the areas of the alleged incident for them to familiarize themselves with the situation,” he said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it had opened an investigation to determine what exactly had happened in Douma.

U.S. United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley speaks with Russian ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya before a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

U.S. United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley speaks with Russian ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya before a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Not without Russia, Iran support

The White House pointed the finger of blame for an alleged chemical attack on Syrian civilians at Tehran and Moscow on Monday, suggesting the Damascus regime could not have carried out such a strike alone.

“Russia and Iran also bear responsibility for these acts since they would not be possible without their material support,” said press secretary Sarah Sanders.

The Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian backers have denied using chemical weapons in a series of alleged attacks, including one on Saturday that killed at least 48 people in the rebel-held town of Douma, outside Damascus.

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