Dutch FM against new sanctions for Russian Federation

Sergio Conner
April 16, 2018

Russia may have tampered with the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria., the US envoy to the global watchdog said Monday, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied allegations of interference.

"They will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use", U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday.

"It is our concern that they may have tampered with it with the intent of thwarting the efforts of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission to conduct an effective investigation", he said.

The Russian Foreign Minister asked: "Why the United States and its allies had carried out air strikes the day before global inspectors were due to arrive at the site?"

Also on Monday, Western countries accused Moscow on Monday of preventing inspectors from reaching the site of a suspected poison gas attack in Syria and said Russians or Syrians may have tampered with evidence on the ground. "All the evidence they quoted was based on media reports and social media", he said.

Mr Uzumcu said the OPCW team was in the Syrian capital awaiting access.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, which fights alongside the Syrian army, said the US military had kept its strikes limited because it knew a wider attack would bring retaliation from Damascus and its allies and inflame the region.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, arriving for a summit of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg, said: "The action that was taken by France, by the UK, by the United States in launching calibrated and proportionate strikes against Assad's chemical weapons capabilities, was entirely right, entirely the right thing to do - right for the UK and right for the world".

Mr Lavrov also questioned why the US, UK and France had carried out their retaliatory air strikes before OPCW inspectors were able to visit the site.

She said Russian Federation has blocked six attempts by the U.N. Security Council to make it easier to investigate the use of chemical weapons.

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Haley made clear the United States won't be pulling troops out of Syria right away, saying US involvement there "is not done".

What was targeted on Saturday?

Britain has said there are no plans for future strikes against Syria, but Johnson warned Assad that all options would be considered if chemical weapons were used against Syrians again.

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Trump tweeted "Mission Accomplished" on Saturday after U.S., French and British warplanes and ships launched more than 100 missiles almost unopposed by Syrian air defenses.

While insisting the action taken early Saturday morning in Syria was "a very strong attack on the chemical weapons program", Haley hit back on more hawkish critics who argue the USA didn't go far enough because it did not change the balance of power in the long-running Syrian civil war.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "We are considering additional sanctions on Russian Federation and a decision will be made in the near future".

Doctors at the hospital where suspected victims were treated told reporters on the tour that none of the patients that night had suffered chemical weapons injuries - they were asphyxiated by dust and smoke in a bombardment.

"We would never want to have direct talks with Syria at this point".

Addressing the French parliament, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Saturday's operation had not been the "prelude to a war".

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