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US, Russia Trade Claims About Who Used Chem Weapons in Syria

06 April 2017

"These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a outcome of the past administration's weakness and irresolution", Trump said Tuesday, after the chemical attacks, purportedly on rebel forces trying to topple the Assad regime.

If they are right, Damascus has not only committed a war crime but also violated a major global agreement.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the United Kingdom had seen nothing that would suggest rebels "have the sort of chemical weapons that are consistent with the symptoms that we saw yesterday".

"In this case now, we have very limited options and look, it's concerning that the secretary of state, 72 hours ago or a week ago, last Friday, said that the future's up to the people in Syria on what happens with Assad". The attack came as the European Union opened a two-day a conference on the future of Syria and the region.

The EU hoped the event attended by about 70 countries would generate financial support at the same levels of recent years, amid concern about donor fatigue.

Mohammed Tennari, AbdulHaj's brother and a radiologist, said Tuesday's attack was more severe than previous chemical attacks his province has witnessed, a lot of them using chlorine cylinders. The United States hasn't yet concluded what type of chemical was used.

Ivanka Trump, a top adviser to the president, tweeted Wednesday that she is "Heartbroken and outraged by the images coming out of Syria following the atrocious chemical attack yesterday".

The province of Idlib is nearly entirely controlled by the Syrian opposition.

She said that a decontamination point had been set up for victims before taking them to Turkey to receive treatment.

The World Health Organisation said there was reason to suspect a chemical attack, with some victims displaying symptoms suggesting exposure to "a category of chemicals that includes nerve agents".

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc aims to remain the top humanitarian donor and is to provide 560 million euros in 2018 for Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

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The pulling of funds is not related to the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which withdraws government funding from U.S. Population Fund has typically been cut off by Republican presidents and restored when Democrats control the White House.

The President condemned the attack as "heinous".

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel noted that with the European Union divided over the refugee emergency, the bloc has failed to share responsibility for even a quarter of the 160,000 refugees that member countries promised to relocate from Italy and Greece.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that President Donald Trump is "extremely alarmed" by reports of the attack and said it was "reprehensible and can not be ignored by the civilized world". But the Russian Foreign Ministry called the resolution "unacceptable" and said it was based on "fake information".

"The use of chemical weapons and the appalling murder of innocent children are evil incarnate", he said Wednesday. The ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the draft blamed the Syrian government for Tuesday's attack without any credible investigation.

Israeli defense officials said Wednesday that military intelligence officers believed government forces were behind the attack.

The officials said that Israel believes Assad has tons of chemical weapons now in his arsenal. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday as they are not allowed to brief media. Another two blamed on the Syrian government were reported in Hama province, not far from Khan Sheikhoun.

He said that from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on April 4, the Syrian government carried out an airstrike on the eastern edge of the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun "on a large warehouse of ammunition and military equipment". Mohammad Alloush, the rebels' chief negotiator at United Nations -mediated talks with the Syrian government, said the envoy must begin labeling the Syrian government as responsible for killing civilians.

"Russia has shielded Assad from United Nations sanctions".

Freeland said Canada and the USA are the two leading funders of the United Nations organization that investigates the use of the chemical weapons, which will play a role in establishing the facts of the attacks.

The latest attack also has prompted calls from Capitol Hill for a strong response.