OPCW experts to start work in Syria on Saturday

Sergio Conner
April 14, 2018

The move Friday came as the U.S., France and Britain are in extensive consultations about launching a military strike on Syria in retaliation for suspected chemical weapons attacks.

While Trump himself was silent on Syria on Friday, giving no further clues on whether U.S. military action was imminent, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Washington estimated Assad's forces had used chemical weapons at least 50 times during the seven-year-long Syrian conflict.

Haley made clear that the US administration was taking time to assess the full implications of military strikes on Syria after Russia warned that it could lead to a unsafe US-Russian war.Addressing the Security Council, Haley laid out Washington's case for resorting to force, challenging Russia's claim that military action would be in violation of global law.

Asked whether the United States has proof Assad launched the Douma attack, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "Yes".

Sergey Lavrov says Russian experts have inspected the site of the alleged attack in Douma, just east of Damascus, and found no trace of chemical weapons.

In a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General said that he had called the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council to reiterate his deep concern about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiralling out of control.

Trump's National Security Council was meeting Friday evening at the level of agency deputy heads, she said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) - the body monitoring and facilitating implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997 - has dispatched a fact-finding mission to Syria in response to latest allegations of chemical weapons use.

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The French presidency issued a video on Twitter showing what it said were war planes taking off as part of the intervention. The government said there was a significant body of information indicating that the Syrian regime was responsible for this.

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Trump calls the two countries those " most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime". Teresa May , Donald Trump , and Emmanuel Macron have yet to decide what type of action they are planning to take.

France's President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, on Friday called for stepped-up talks with Moscow and spoke to President Vladimir Putin by phone.

The COI recalled that it has documented 34 incidents of chemical weapons use "by various parties to the conflict".

"International law generally prohibits all use of armed force with narrow exceptions for self-defense, United Nations Security Council authorization, and consent of a government to participate in a civil war".

The joint operation by the USA and its allies was in response to a suspected chemical attack in the city of Douma last week.

Guterres urged the Security Council to "act responsibly in these risky circumstances".

OPCW inspectors are expected to arrive in Syria at the weekend to investigate, following an invitation from Damascus.

"A chemical escalation in Syria is not acceptable", Le Drian said, calling the strikes "proportional and targeted".

Western officials believe chlorine was used in the attack on Douma, the main city in the longtime rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta, where the British government now estimates 75 people were killed.

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