Trump muddies the waters over timing of threatened Syria strike

A bus carries rebels and their families who left Douma as Russia declared a victory for Syria in the rebel enclave outside of Damascus. The city was the site of an apparent chemical weapons attack over the weekend

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White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump held a meeting on Thursday afternoon with his team to discuss the situation.

The National has learned that prior to the White House meeting, U.S. military leaders met late on Wednesday at the Pentagon and finalised a package of strikes options for the United States president but that none of these options would debilitate the Assad regime airpower. Britain has been working with its allies to determine what happened, and "we are rapidly reaching that understanding", she said during a visit to the English city of Birmingham.

The suspected chemical attack in Douma, a rebel stronghold outside of the Syrian capital of Damascus, on April 7 killed 43 people, according to the White Helmets rescue organization.

Sanders says, "The president holds Syria and Russian Federation responsible for this chemical weapons attack".

Following an emergency Cabinet session, the British government called the Douma incident "a shocking and barbaric act" likely perpetrated by Damascus, and pledged to "coordinate an worldwide response".

He has said that any French strikes would target the Syrian government's chemical facilities and has spoken at length with Trump since Sunday, after the first reports of a possible chemical attack in Syria emerged.

Apparently, he failed to run it by the White House National Security team, staffers and USA allies, because the White House later issued a statement explaining that a final decision had not yet been made regarding Syria.

Chemical weapons inspectors are preparing to head to Syria to find out, though their schedule is still unknown.

Her explanation of the president's contact with fellow world leaders came a day before May concluded a cabinet meeting in which they "agreed on the need to take action to alleviate humanitarian distress and to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime".

There were signs of a global effort to head off a direct confrontation between Russian Federation and the West. Earlier on Thursday, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, said that he believes any strike against Syria would violate the UN charter.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin appealed for common sense in a world growing "more chaotic".

Why is the West considering military action?

Russian Federation blocks United Nations resolution on Syria as U.S. military action looms large
Nebenzia blamed some council members for voting against the text, as he claimed, simply because it was a Russian draft. Five countries - Bolivia, China, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Russia - voted in favor, failing to pass the threshold of nine.

If the U.S. can strike Syria without hitting Russian troops and equipment, it could be as successful politically as the one last April, which went virtually unpunished and won Trump wide praise for his foreign-policy boldness. Tartus, along with other bases used by Russian Federation, is defended by the advanced S-400 missile system.

The Russian military said it had observed movements of US Navy forces in the Gulf. Earlier in the week, a Turkish Twitter troll spread a rumor that the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook was in Syrian waters, armed with 60 Tomahawks; CNN Turk picked up the story.

Moscow's ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, warned on Wednesday that any United States missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launch sites targeted.

In response, Maria Zakharova, Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson, said allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Douma were false and could not be used as a pretext to undertake any military action against Syria.

"With every victory achieved on the field, the voices of some Western states are raised and actions are intensified in an attempt by them to change the course of events. these voices and any possible action will contribute nothing but an increase in instability in the region, threatening worldwide peace and security", Mr al Assad said according to Syrian state television.

The Syrian conflict has increasingly widened the rifts between Moscow, Washington and European powers, and inflamed the bitter rivalries that run across the Middle East.

He said that the US role in Syria is to defeat Islamic State, not "to engage in the civil war itself".

Any potential strike against Syria could be carried out by extensive US and United Kingdom military assets already in the region, including two US Navy destroyers armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Trump spoke by phone with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Netanyahu's office said: "The prime minister reiterated that Israel will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria".

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said the Western threats were "based on lies" about the poison gas assault, after meeting Assad. President Donald Trump put off a final decision on strikes against Syria following a crunch meeting with national security advisors yesterday, as Moscow warned against any USA move that could trigger a conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.

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