Published: Fri, April 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

U.S. concerned about triggering wider war as it weighs strike on Syria

U.S. concerned about triggering wider war as it weighs strike on Syria

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday the use of chemical weapons in Syria is "simply inexcusable", after a suspected poison gas attack that left more than 40 people dead.

Mattis said he would discuss Syria options at a National Security Council meeting later Thursday, and promised to keep Congressional leaders informed if the Pentagon did decide to strike.

"They can only say that they found evidence or did not, and as each day goes by - as you know, it's a non-persistent gas, so it becomes more and more hard to confirm it", Mattis said.

The defense secretary said that he did believe that a chemical attack did take place, but that the USA was still "looking for the actual evidence". "We're trying to stop the murder of innocent people, but on a strategic level it's how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if, if you get my drift on that".

Trump told reporters at the White House that he would be having more meetings Thursday about the Syria situation, and "we'll see what happens".

"Our strategy remains the same as a year ago: to drive this to a United Nations -brokered peace, but at the same time keep our foot on the neck of ISIS until we suffocate it", Mattis said.

Mattis, addressing a hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, declined to discuss US military planning on Syria.

The United States last April launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield in response to a similar chemical attack by the government that killed dozens of civilians.

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Peskov wouldn't say if Moscow could use a Russian-U.S. military hotline to avoid escalation in the event of a U.S. strike, saying only that "the hotline exists and has remained active".

Asked in a TV interview whether France would join strikes on Syria, Macron said, "We will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it to be most useful and effective", according to Agence France Presse.

"We're still assessing the intelligence ourselves, and our allies. That's where we're at right now", Mattis told the committee.

"The use of chemical weapons in Syria is not something we should assume: Well, because he didn't use them on us this time, he wouldn't use them on us next time", said Mattis, who also promised to have the Pentagon's lawyers provide Congress with a formal reply.

Mattis was referring to global investigating teams from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The release says the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control has blocked the airline for transporting weapons and ammunition to Syria in conjunction with Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Russian lawmakers have warned the United States that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime and that it could trigger a direct U.S-Russian military clash. "We're still working on this", he said.

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