Trump pledges 'forceful' US action over Syria chemical attack, as Russia warns of 'grave repercussions'

Tensions between Russia and the West are rising over the alleged chemical attack in Syria, as Russia warns that any US military action would have 'grave repercussions', and insist there was no signs of a chemical attack 

Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, addressed an emergency UN security council meeting in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria on Monday. (Photo: The Guardian)
Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, addressed an emergency UN security council meeting in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria on Monday. (Photo: The Guardian)

The US and Russia moved closer to direct confrontation over the alleged chemical attack in Syria as Donald Trump said a decision was imminent, and Moscow warned that any US military action would have “grave repercussions”.

US President Donald Trump has promised a "forceful" response to the alleged chemical attack in Syria. "We have a lot of options militarily," he told reporters. He added that a response would be decided "shortly".

Trump said the US was getting some "good clarity" on who was responsible for the incident in Douma on Saturday.

Medical sources say dozens were killed in the alleged attack but exact numbers are impossible to verify.

The US and its allies have accused the regime of Bashar al-Assad of carrying out the attack, and Trump himself said Vladimir Putin, by backing Assad, bore some responsibility.

Trump also discussed the incident with French President Emmanuel Macron late on Monday, and both leaders expressed a desire for a "firm response".

The White House issued a statement saying the US and French presidents would “continue their coordination on responding to Syria’s atrocious use of chemical weapons on April 7”.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said she "utterly condemns" the "barbaric" alleged chemical weapons attack and called for backers of President Bashar al-Assad to be held to account.

The condemnation from Western leaders follows a tense meeting at the UN Security Council in which the US and Russia traded harsh words over the incident.

Russian representative Vassily Nebenzia said the alleged attack was staged and warned that US military action in response could have "grave repercussions".

US envoy Nikki Haley said Russia - a Syrian military backer - had the "blood of Syrian children" on its hands and branded President Assad a "monster".

Haley has called for a vote on Tuesday on a draft resolution to set up a new inquiry into the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

But Russia says it cannot support the proposal because it contains "unacceptable elements". Moscow has said its experts have not found "any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians" and offered to take experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to fly to Syria as soon as Tuesday, saying that Russian troops would escort them to the site of the alleged attack.

Tensions between Russia and the West have dropped to their worst level in decades, following the poisoning in of an ex-spy in England last March.  The UK and several other states blamed Moscow, and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

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