Strikes on Syria did not hit areas near Russian bases: Moscow

Chemical Attacks in Syria UN Council Must Prevent Syria'Spiralling Out of Control, Says Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

As chemical weapons experts arrived in Syria to investigate a suspected poison gas attack by government forces, global diplomacy was in high gear to head off an escalation, though accusations flew thick and fast between Washington and its allies, and Russia, Assad's main backer.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has responded angrily to the strikes, while Syrian state media called them a "flagrant violation of global law".

After a crunch meeting with national security advisers on Thursday, the White House said he had not yet decided how to retaliate to last week's suspected chemical attack which the US, France and Britain blame on Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Western powers continued to weigh their options on Friday over possible strikes against Syria's regime as pressure built to avoid an escalation following a warning from Russian Federation that military action could lead to "war".

According to the World Health Organisation, during the shelling of Douma on Saturday, "an estimated 500 patients presented to health facilities exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals".

"The immediate priority is to avert the danger of war", said Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia following closed-door Security Council talks, refusing to exclude the possibility of US-Russian clashes. "We know for a fact that on April 3-6, there has been strong pressure exactly from London on representatives of the so-called White Helmets for the prompt execution of the pre-planned provocation", a Russian military spokesman told reporters.

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The Syrian Armed Forces said in a statement that 110 missiles were fired on Syrian targets and that the country's defense systems "intercepted most of the missiles, but some hit targets including the Research Center in Barzeh". It cited the Russian Ministry of Defense.

A meeting of the North Atlantic Council will be held Saturday afternoon, a NATO official told CNN.

Russia's Ministry of Defense said it believed the action by the US, UK and France was not in retaliation to the alleged chemical attack in Douma but instead was a reaction to the "success" of the Syrian army in liberating its territory from rebels.

Earlier on Saturday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was left with "no alternative path" but to order the air strikes. He continued by saying that global law has been systematically violated in Syria and that he feels angry at reports of chemical weapons use in the country.

A Downing Street spokesperson added: "They agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged, and on the need to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime".

The UN Security Council overwhelmingly rejected a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of "aggression" by the United States, United Kingdom and France against Syria.

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