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Putin says further Syria strikes from Western powers would spark 'chaos'

Meanwhile, a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of the US, British, and French missile strikes on Syria has failed at the UN Security Council.

Russia Putin Source: AP/PA Images

Updated at 5.30pm

MORE WESTERN AIRSTRIKES in Syria would provoke “chaos” in international relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani today.

Speaking to Rouhani by telephone the day after US-led strikes on suspected chemical weapons facilities, Putin said “if such actions, carried out in violation of the United Nations Charter, are repeated, that would inevitably provoke chaos in international relations,” according to a statement from the Kremlin.

The two leaders “found that this illegal action seriously damaged the prospects of a political settlement in Syria,” the statement said.

The US, France and the UK launched strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s government a week after an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma, just east of the capital Damascus.

Putin has denounced the strikes “with the utmost firmness”, describing them as “an act of aggression against a sovereign state which is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism”.

UN-SECURITY COUNCIL-SYRIA-DRAFT RESOLUTION-FAILING US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley votes against a Russian resolution condemning the attacks on Syria by the US, UK, and France last night Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Inspectors from the international chemical watchdog will begin their investigation today at the site of the alleged chemical attack, according to a senior Syrian official.

“The fact-funding team arrived in Damascus on Saturday and is due to go to Douma on Sunday,” Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan told AFP.

A delegation of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague, is tasked with investigating the alleged 7 April attack on Douma, just east of Damascus.

Western powers say chemical substances, most likely chlorine and sarin, were used in the attack and killed at least 40 civilians.

The alleged attack, which Damascus and its Russian ally have denied ever happened, prompted an unprecedented wave of missile strikes by the United States, France and Britain yesterday.

Soussan reiterated a pledge by the Syrian government that the chemical experts would be allowed to investigate unimpeded.

“We will ensure they can work professionally, objectively, impartially and free of any pressure,” he said.

Syria US The Damascus sky, alive with surface-to-air missile fire, early yesterday morning Source: Hassan Ammar/PA Images

Firepower

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and his British and French allies have hailed the joint strikes, warning Damascus that any repetition would be met with renewed firepower.

The allies have since signalled 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 UN Security Council fell far short.

Trump and his allies ordered the mission in response to the 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 attack, a senior US administration official told reporters yesterday.

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.

Fresh diplomatic push

United Nations Security Council - NYC Russian ambassador to the Security Council Vasily Nebenzya leaves the meeting last night which saw the Russian call for condemnation of yesterday's missile strikes defeated Source: Van Tine Dennis/ABACA

Negotiations on the draft resolution put forward by the US, France and Britain are set to begin tomorrow.

The contentious proposals contained in the resolution include the establishment of 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.

© – AFP, 2018

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