United Nations holds emergency talks after US Syria attack

Top aides to President Donald Trump demurred on Sunday over where USA policy on Syria was headed after last week's retaliatory missile strike, leaving open questions about whether removing Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad from power was now one of Trump's goals.

In a sign of the continuing diplomatic fallout from the chemical attack and the USA response, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced Saturday that he had canceled a planned visit to Moscow on Monday.

The deadly sarin gas attack in Syria that killed 84 people changed the administration's mind.

Trump justified his cruise missile attack in the traditional language of upholding worldwide norms, and of deterring recourse to chemical
weapons as inimical to American interests.

Syria has denied using any chemical agents, and Russian Federation says the USA gave no evidence Syria has chemical weapons.

Alaa Alyousef, who lost 25 relatives in the chemical attack, said the USA missile strike "alleviates a small part of our suffering", but he worries it will be an "anesthetic" that merely numbs the pain while allowing the global community to save face. Still, he said the strike on the base, Syria's second-largest, with a fleet of Sukhoi-22, Sukhoi-24 and MiG-23 warplanes, is more a moral blow than a military one.

Yet a single, punitive aerial strike neither constitutes a new U.S. policy on Syria nor paves the way for the vision promoted by Trump that "all civilised nations" should now "join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria".

Rouhani went on to reiterate Tehran's stance that the solution to Syria's crisis is a political, not military, one, and said it is necessary under the current circumstances to boost cooperation between Iran, Russia and Syria in the fight against violence and terror.

Iran, which has provided crucial military and political support to Assad, meanwhile called for a fact-finding mission to determine what caused the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun.

Hamade said Iranian military advisers were active at the base, though it was not possible to independently confirm the claim.

Turkey electoral board rejects request to annul referendum
Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party, announced the move at the Ankara offices of the electoral board. There has been no official word from the White House on any planned meeting between Trump and Erdogan.

An immediate sign of potential fallout from the strike came from Moscow, which said it would strengthen Syrian air defenses to protect the country's key infrastructure. U.S. Treasury officials say they are preparing sanctions in response to the chemical weapons attack, though the Syrian government is already buried under U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. launched missile strikes on Syrian government installations Thursday in response to the chemical attacks.

He opted instead for a Russian-backed plan that was supposed to remove and eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.

He had planned to travel to Russia Monday on a trip meant to start a fresh dialogue with Moscow.

While this may reassure US Congressmen and intelligence agencies determined to preserve the hostility of the Obama years, Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, visits Moscow this week to test whether relations can be reset despite charges of Russian complicity in the chemical attack.

She blamed Iran and Russian Federation for standing by the Syrian government when it committed crimes. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry underscored the need to "prevent the situation in Syria from getting worse and to protect this hard political solution process". He added that the United Nations was "created to support America instead of serving the wronged people".

He also said the top USA priority in the region hadn't changed and remained the defeat of Islamic State militants.

US -backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more USA intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (Photo by AFP)

"It reminds me of the situation in 2003 when the United States and Britain, along with some of their allies, attacked Iraq", the top Russian diplomat said.
The Observatory said 15 people, including four children, were killed in the airstrike.

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