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Trump to decide on response to Syrian chemical attack 'probably by the end of today'

“Everybody’s gonna pay a price.”

Image: Evan Vucci/AP

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump says he will decide “probably by the end of today” on a US response to the apparent chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. He suggested Syria’s main military ally, Russia, would “pay a price.”

Speaking during a Cabinet meeting, Trump condemned the “heinous attack” which on Saturday that killed at least 40 people, including children. Asked by a reporter whether President Vladimir Putin bears responsibility, Trump said, “He may, yeah, he may. And if he does it’s going to be very tough, very tough.” He added, “Everybody’s gonna pay a price. He will, everybody will.”

Amid the tough talk in the White House, the US military appeared to be in position to carry out any attack order. A Navy destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, was underway in the eastern Mediterranean after completing a port call at Larnaca, Cyprus.

The ship is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, the weapon of choice in a US attack one year ago on an airfield in Syria after an alleged sarin gas attack on civilians at Khan Sheikhoun. The US said the 2017 strike was intended to deter Syria from further use of chemical weapons.

Trump was to meet later today with senior national security aides. “Nothing’s off the table,” he said after condemning Saturday’s suspected use of toxic gas. “It was an atrocious attack,” he said. “It was horrible.”

Trump said the US is still investigating the possible involvement of the Iranian and Russian governments.

“If it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” he said.

The United States, meanwhile, was urging the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that would condemn the continuing use of chemical weapons in Syria “in the strongest terms” and establish a new body to determine responsibility for chemical attacks. The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, was circulated ahead of an emergency Security Council meeting.

Trump planned two meetings with senior national security aides today on Syria, in addition to a previously scheduled late-afternoon White House conference with leaders of US military commands around the world. Today was the first day on the job for Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, who has previously advocated military action against Syria.

The White House deliberations came as Russia and the Syrian military blamed Israel for a pre-dawn missile attack on a major air base in central Syria, saying Israeli fighter jets launched missiles from Lebanon’s air space. A group that monitors Syria’s civil war said the airstrikes killed 14 people, including Iranians active in Syria.

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