Trump threatens Syria over chemical attack


US President Donald Trump says Syria’s leader will have a “big price to pay” over a chemical attack. Relief groups say children and adults in Douma have been affected by a chemical weapons attack.

US President Donald Trump has warned there would be a “big price to pay” after aid groups said dozens of people were killed by poison gas in a besieged rebel-held town in Syria, an attack the opposition blamed on Syrian government forces.

As international officials worked to try to confirm the chemical attack which happened late on Saturday in the town of Douma, Trump took the rare step of directly criticising Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with the incident.

With tension running high, Syrian state television later issued a report of a suspected U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base, prompting a swift U.S. denial of any such attack.

The Syrian state denied government forces had launched any chemical assault. Russia, President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally, called the reports fake.

Trump threatened action, although it was unclear what he had in mind. Last year, he authorised a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base days after a sarin gas attack on civilians.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the civil defence service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said in a joint statement 49 people died in the attack.

U.S. government sources said Washington’s assessment was that chemical weapons were used in a besieged rebel-held town in Syria, but they are still evaluating details.

The European Union also said evidence pointed to the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces.

The United Nations Security Council will meet on Monday following rival requests by Russia and the United States after the deadly chemical attack.

Russia called for a meeting of the 15-member council on “international threats to peace and security,” though the precise topic of discussion was not immediately clear.

A minute later the United States, France, Britain, Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, Kuwait, Peru and Ivory Coast called for a meeting to discuss the chemical weapons attack in Syria.

An agreement was reached late Sunday to hold one meeting on Monday instead of two, diplomats said.

“The Security Council has to come together and demand immediate access for first responders, support an independent investigation into what happened, and hold accountable those responsible for this atrocious act,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement.

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